Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Features and More

With tai chi, seniors cope with Parkinson's

SPRING HILL

A group of seniors — predominantly septuagenarians — gathers each Tuesday afternoon at a gym, moving with a distinct fluidity and grace. The half-dozen participants, who live with Parkinson's disease, spend an hour practicing tai chi and chi kung, a program of soft flexing, stretching and controlled breathing at Body Fitness.

Sponsored by the University of South Florida's Movement Disorder Center and the National Parkinson Foundation, it is geared to help people with the disease, a disorder of the nervous system that reduces muscular control.

"I don't have many outward signs," says Jim Hottel, one of the participants. "Sometimes I tell my hand to do something and by then I've spilled it or made a mess of something. I know what I intend to do, but …"

The Spring Hill resident takes no medications for the ailment that has limited his movements for a couple of years.

"It's really pretty good,'' he said of the program. "I find it's helpful to me, to a lot of people."

Another member of the group, Murray Plotkin, 77, tapped a reporter's notebook and declared, "My medications are as long as this sheet."

The former New York City train conductor suffered for 20 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. His hands shook so much his boss asked him if he punched tickets with a machine gun.

Plotkin, who had three back surgeries in three years to go along with the Parkinson's, used to hobble around with a four-pronged cane.

"I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes," he said. Now, with medicine and tai chi, "at least I'm walking around."

At a recent class, the Spring Hill resident stood alone, spread his feet to shoulder width and performed about 15 minutes of leg and arm exercises without incident.

J.J. Philips, the youngest of the group at 59, swallows daily "more meds than you can shake a stick at," including the first human trial of an antibiotic that has been shown to slow, and sometimes reverse, his type of illness in mice.

Philips, who has lived in Spring Hill for six years, was diagnosed in January 2009 with multiple system atrophy, MSA, which he described as "Parkinson's-plus."

"It's quicker than Parkinson's," said the former judge from Charleston County, S.C. "It's just like it says, all systems begin to atrophy.

He foresees the need for a cane, then a wheelchair, followed by bed confinement. MSA is currently incurable, he said.

The exercise program is a good fit for him.

"It helps me with my balance," he said. "I also have a bad disc in my back, which limits the exercise I can do, so this one I can do."

While he exercises at home on a limited basis, he added, "It's easier with a group. It gets you motivated."

Bob Emmans' bout with Parkinson's began six or seven years ago. With daily medications, the 78-year-old Spring Hill resident's hands still tremor and his legs lock up every now and then.

"I feel better after the program," said Emmans, who has been doing tai chi for three years. "I do it at home, occasionally at the gym here."

Class instructor Susan Frangello, a social worker at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities for 40 years, has followed tai chi regimens for seven years and taught them for four throughout the Tampa Bay area.

She recently led her students through flexes and stretches of their shoulders, back, waist, arms, fingers and legs. With some seated and some standing, they regulated their breathing while performing dancelike movements to a fluid musical background, always reaching "for the chi, the life force," before finishing with a clasped-hands martial arts bow.

Comments
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Top things to do for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay: Concerts, festivals and memorials

Our editors' picks for things to do this weekend.
Updated: 9 hours ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in...
Updated: 10 hours ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

IF YOU SAY SO: PORN STARS ARE COMEDIANSWell, it’s different. Porn Stars Are Comedians extends the concept of the podcast Porn Stars Are People ("the only podcast with porn stars where we don’t discuss porn or the business of porn"), hosted by Dan Fri...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

CLEARWATER — Hat Trick Theatre, the resident company of Ruth Eckerd Hall, closes out its season with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I must say it’s a stark choice, mainly because I can’t get two sentences into this without using the word "stark....
Published: 05/23/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

SHORTS: Art and Short Film Mini-FestA fundraiser for the [email protected] brings an Art and Short Film Mini-Fest to the studio tonight. There will be four short films, an exhibit of artwork by Corinne Leavengood and photography by Diana Lucas Leavengood. P...
Published: 05/23/18
Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

MIX MASTER: BENNY ANDREWS AT THE MFABenny Andrews was an award-winning artist known for his innovative use of collage in his paintings and works on paper, starting in the late 1950s. He was also an activist and advocate for African-American artists, ...
Published: 05/23/18
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Published: 05/23/18