The Benefits of Engagement
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First and foremost, when you are engaged you don’t have to worry about finding a date. Linda and I got engaged in 1968, before the internet, credit cards, cell phones, microwave ovens, HDTV’s, GPS, and Alexa! Try to imagine a date now without these “necessities”. We did, however, see some beautiful sunsets!

But that is not the type of “engagement” I want to talk about today. Engagement in this context refers to the interaction between a PWP (person with Parkinson’s) and the world around them. There are many different types of engagement including physical, mental, social, hobbies/passions, and spiritual (some of these overlap).

Types of engagement

Physical engagement refers primarily to exercise, which is a proven way to slow Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression. Do as much as you can SAFELY! Consult your neurologist about what and how much exercise is right for you. There are classes available in many parts of the U.S. for PWPs and care partners including Rock Steady Boxing, yoga, dance, and basic exercise. Walking is a good basic exercise. The idea is to get up out of your chair and move around as you are able.

Mental engagement can include reading, writing, watching educational programs on TV, doing puzzles or games, singing, participating in sports, discussing world events and much more. The goal is to maximize neuroplasticity for as long as possible.

Hobbies/Passions are a type of engagement I like to highlight for a number of reasons. They involve physical and/or mental engagement as well as social engagement in some cases (sports, music, dance, board games and much more). By definition, they involve activities that are personally enjoyable. We are all more likely to engage in activities we enjoy as opposed to things we have to force ourselves to do. At the risk of getting “into the weeds”, these types of activities often result in the production of endorphins which can have a very positive effect.

Spiritual engagement is important to many, but not all, of us. For those to whom it is important, this can involve active participation in their faith and related activities such as prayer and attending a place of worship. For others, there is a belief in a “higher power” they experience through nature, music, art, or meditation. If it is important to the individual, it is a good thing to maintain that connection.

My personal favorite: Altruistic engagement

There is a tendency for patients to become depressed and withdrawn as PD progresses leading to faster decline. Engagement can help PWP’s fight off two very common problems – apathy and depression. I have a personal favorite based on my own experience that I call altruistic engagement which involves trying to make a difference in people’s lives. It was my faith that led me in this direction when I realized that I was experiencing apathy and depression due to spending too much time thinking and worrying about myself. Consider options like participating in clinical research studies, brain donation, writing a blog, assisting with a support group, or something as simple as spending time with someone who is struggling.

Think about what engagement should look like for you. Enlist your most important asset, your care partner, to help with this. Benefits include your personal wellness, reduction of stress for your care partner, and peace of mind for your family.

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