Nearly 17 years ago, Serena and Charlie Caperonis received life-changing news – Charlie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In 2016, when the couple left their Boxford home for nearby Edgewood, they did so with a mission to form a support group at the North Andover senior living community.
At Edgewood they found a champion for their cause in Paula Kelley and Nancy Ryan, the community’s director of life enrichment and wellness specialist. Kelley researched a unique program called Rock Steady Boxing, a noncontact boxing and fitness regimen specifically designed for those with Parkinson’s. Last February, Ryan ventured 1,000 miles to the Rock Steady Boxing training facility in Indianapolis to become a certified coach and officially introduced the boxing program at Edgewood three months later.
Twice a week, the Caperonises and a handful of other residents attend the 90-minute sessions. Each resident with Parkinson’s is joined by their “corner man,” a friend, team member or spouse who provides physical support and emotional motivation. Serena is Charlie’s corner man and never misses a session.
With Ryan as instructor, residents are guided through a series of exercises that test verbal communication, balance, coordination and fine motor skills, all things that can be more difficult for people with the disease. Exercises include bar-supported squats, picking up nuts and bolts to challenge motor skills, and, of course, lacing up the gloves for a few rounds with the bag.
The benefits are immediate and noticeable – Charlie says he can often walk better after an invigorating session.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, approximately 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, with about 60,000 people diagnosed each year in the U.S. Research has shown that exercise can provide numerous benefits to those living with the disease.
Ahead of Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April, Edgewood will host an open house on Thursday, March 15, from 3-5 p.m. for neighbors in the greater community to learn more about their Rock Steady Boxing program. If you’re interested in attending, or would like to speak with Ryan or the Caperonises, please contact Ben Green at 913-754-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.