Painters hone their skills to beat Parkinson’s

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Painting as therapy: Juanita Gilbert, Karen Mitchell, Garry Cameron, Pamela Farrington, Pat Craddock, Ken Wall and volunteer Michael Lord. Picture: Yanni

A DESIRE to give something back to the community after she retired prompted occupational therapist Pamela Farrington to start the Mt Martha creative group Painting with Parkinson’s.

Now, however, she realises the benefits run both ways: “All the members are my friends and I value them so much that I am the one who feels blessed.”

Ms Farrington has been running PWP for eight years “to give people with Parkinson’s a fun, creative outlet with others who are dealing with various symptoms of the neurological disease”.

“We start off with simple, seated exercise which has been found to stimulate neural pathways,” she said.

“Then, under instruction from volunteer Michael Lord, we do a different form of painted art (adapted to various skill levels) at each session. The members have found this stimulating, satisfying and fun – and something to show to family members and friends.”

The group, which meets at Mt Martha Community House, had an exhibition in the foyer of Mornington library where “interest from the public was lovely with two people visiting the group to see us in action”. It also exhibited at Kingston Gallery where three members sold their paintings.

Although Ms Farrington does not have Parkinson’s she knows the painters “really appreciate their chats over morning tea about various things that concern them, such as treatments and doctors”.

“I encourage humour and we feel we can solve most of the problems in parliament – including getting along with each other despite differing views!” she quipped.

In a welcome move, Ms Farrington said Mornington Peninsula Shire had taken over paying the $400 annual rent that she had been paying for past five years “to keep my group afloat”.

Painting with Parkinson’s at Mt Martha House is supported by the Mornington Peninsula Shire through the neighbourhood house program.

The benefits for the painters are a welcome social inclusion, because often the symptoms of the disease make it hard for them to access other groups. “Falls, memory loss, soft voice, tremor, depression and anxiety can inhibit people mixing socially,” she said.

“As a retired community occupational therapist who specialised in Parkinson’s at a rehabilitation centre in Melbourne I am comfortable working with Parkinson’s members and am able to adapt activities accordingly.

“We have 10 regular members at present, with numbers fluctuating due to holidays, sickness etc.

“Paintings are mostly acrylic but some do pastels and there’s quite a bit of watercolour, too.”

The group meets 10am-12 noon, first and third Wednesdays, but not on school holidays. Mt Martha community house is at 466 Esplanade, Mt Martha, corner Dominion Road. All materials and morning tea is provided.

The group took part in the first Peninsula Parkinson’s Walk, Sunday 2 September, around Frankston Botanical Gardens. “It was well attended and we had lovely weather,” Ms Farrington said.

“It was the 10th anniversary of the Parkinson’s Walks at Federation Square. The walk was organised by Karen and Glenys of the Frankston Parkinson’s Support Group.

“Parkinson’s Victoria is thrilled this regional walk has come to fruition.”

Details: Ms Farrington 0448 835 488.

First published in the Mornington News – 11 September 2018

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