(Above) Led by George Brown

(Above) Led by George Brown

Exercise program helping former Creston resident with Parkinson’s disease

Former Crestonite George Brown, who now lives in Sidney, B.C., credits health resurgence to exercise program...

Five years ago, shortly before he moved to Sidney, B.C., George Brown slowly passed by the Advance office on Canyon Street, each step a struggle and his balance aided by two canes.

Last week, he arrived at the Advance without the aid of canes. As he came through the door he stretched his arms above his head and lifted one leg to nearly waist height.

“I can do this for 10 minutes or more,” he said, a smile widening across his face.

Brown has Parkinson’s disease, and has had it for nearly 20 years. Now, at 72, he credits his health resurgence to an exercise program he has been participating in for two years.

“I was out riding my trike and I got talking to a man who turned out to also have Parkinson’s,” Brown said after taking a seat. “He told me about a film that was being shown about Parkinson’s and suggested I come along.”

The film turned out to be the first dramatic step in improving his quality of life. What he learned was that a routine had been developed by a physiotherapist who started doing research after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The result was a program that has four pillars: focus, physical, cognition and emotional. What started as a fitness program with two participants in 2013 has grown to include more than 100 members in Sidney. One aspect of the program is the facilitator asking questions while the participants are exercising. The intent is to force the brain to think about other things while maintaining its control of physical movements.

“I pay $50 dollars a month instead of a drop-in fee,” Brown said. “We meet three times a week for an hour and I look forward to every session.”

In Creston, Brown was a physical activity enthusiast and could often be seen out riding his bicycle. But he crashed his bike and broke his neck in three places 20 years ago, and soon after began showing symptoms of Parkinson’s. But even his wife, Afa, a family physician, thought the symptoms were results of nerve damage from the accident. As his condition grew worse, Afa died after a long battle with cancer, and George relocated to Sidney to be nearer to family and medical services.

“My daughter, now a physician, told me, ‘Papa, keep moving or you’ll be in a wheelchair in three to five years,” he recalled.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that primarily affects the motor system. Shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking are the common early symptoms. Thinking and behavioural problems can arise and dementia is a common occurrence as the disease progresses.

When Brown entered the exercise program, he was taking nine prescription medications, including sleeping pills and antidepressants, to combat his symptoms.

“Now I’m on three medications and I’m due for a review that should reduce that number to two,” he said.

Today, he averages two to four kilometres a day walking and he often reaches his goal of 10,000 steps.

“This week I got on a bike to adjust the gears for a young fellow,” he smiled. “I hadn’t been on a bicycle for nine years! And I am back playing my Autoharp, too!”

Brown was in Creston at the invitation of his friends, Marilin and Dr. Randy Grahn, who are hoping his story can inspire the formation of a Creston exercise group. On his visit, Brown spoke to a group of 27 medical professionals, did a presentation to the Creston Rotary Club and led an exercise class at the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.

“I think there is genuine excitement among the professionals George has spoken to, especially those who knew him before and can see the change in him,” Marilin said. “I hope there will be a program like the one George participates in up and running by the fall — and it would benefit many more people than those who have Parkinson’s. The program is simple and safe, and doesn’t cost much at all.”

“My dad used to say, ‘Keep moving and the undertaker won’t catch you,’ and, ‘Every day you wake up and don’t see dandelion roots is a good day’,” Brown laughed. “After 10 years on sleeping pills and nearly 20 on antidepressants I don’t need them any more. And it might take me a few hours to get up and mobile in the morning, but I look forward to every day!”

Just Posted

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

Emergency health services treated a person after they were blocking traffic at the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets on June 17. (Evert Lindquist/ News Staff)
Victoria intersection traffic returns to normal after protester blocked roadway

A person in a motorized wheelchair was blocking the intersection at Fort and Douglas Streets

Eric White’s roadside farm stand in Metchosin sits stocked with produce. (Photo courtesy of Eric White)
Fledgling Metchosin farmer frustrated by thefts from stand

Eric White said every dollar made at the roadside helps sustain his farm

Saanich police took a suspect into custody after a store employee on Cedar Hill Cross Road was assaulted Wednesday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Employee assaulted at Saanich store after asking suspected shoplifters to leave

June 16 incident saw worker taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read