Parkinson’s Awareness Month Features Virtual Sing-A-Long

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by Mary Chapman |

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On four occasions during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, which is observed every April, some 500 members of the global Parkinson’s (PD) community will participate in the first virtual Parkinson’s Sing-A-Long.

Presented by the World Parkinson Coalition (WPC), the effort will be led by the WPC’s choir director, Judi Spencer, and joined by some past members of the organization’s choir. The choir also has performed at the triennial World Parkinson Congress, which the WPC organizes.

The Parkinson’s Sing-A-Long is a way to support the international PD community by encouraging members to continue to exercise their voices even while self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 90% of those living with Parkinson’s have voice and speech changes. The neurodegenerative disorder affects not only muscles necessary for movement, but also the ones that control communication ability, including speech and facial expressions. A study last year suggested that intensive singing interventions in PD may enhance vocal loudness, respiratory muscle strength, and voice-related quality of life.

While all Parkinson’s patients are encouraged to work with a speech language pathologist, there are many things patients can do on their own to support the voice training, including joining a choir and engaging in regular singing activities.

“Leading the WPC Choir has always brought me such joy,” said Spencer, a vocal and rhythm specialist, in a press release. “I always look forward to the choir coming together at each World Parkinson Congress, and am pleased we can bring them together virtually in this way. The joy of singing is so important for health and wellness, and has a magical way of lessening the emotional toll of self-isolation.”

Registration is required to join the Sing-A-Long, and will cover all four sessions. Participants will need a computer, tablet, or smart phone. Registration will close three hours before each event, after which time registrants will be sent a Zoom app link. Go here if basic Zoom information is needed, or write the WPC here.

While participants will be singing together, video call lag time will prevent them from hearing each other. Each session will begin with breathing exercises to get everyone warmed up. At first, lyrics will be shown on the screen so that everyone can practice singing together. Because the organization wants everyone to have fun, participants are encouraged to wear a personalized hat or “goofy” glasses.

Here are the dates:

April 9, 5 p.m. EST

April 16, 1 p.m., EST

April 23, 5 p.m. EST

April 30, 1 p.m. EST

The next World Parkinson Congress will be held in Spain in June 2022. Some 4,500 delegates from more than 60 countries are expected at the event, which offers discussion of the latest PD scientific discoveries, medical practices, and caregiver initiatives.

“While the World Parkinson Congress is a scientific meeting, creativity plays a unique role in the overall program,” said Elizabeth Pollard, WPC executive director. “Each WPC offers a variety of creative endeavors to complement the science and research. We believe that by weaving creativity into one’s wellness plan, individuals can have a better quality of life. Not only do artistic endeavors help exercise the mind, they bring great joy to the artist and others around the artist,” she said.

Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 1 million U.S. residents and 10 million individuals globally. In the U.S. alone, about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

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