Gannon University Participates in 8th Annual Purposeful Movement and Wellness Program

Posted: April 5, 2017

Gannon University occupational therapy students and staff are collaborating with community partners to offer the spring session of the eighth annual Purposeful Movement and Wellness Program.

The program allows graduate-level students the opportunity to connect classroom theory with real-life experience by actively engaging and interacting with people with Parkinson's disease.

The program, which started in 2009, engages participants in wellness and exercise activities tailored to people with Parkinson's disease. Participants attend sessions consisting of general exercises and education that will address posture and breathing, increased range of motion, flexibility and strength, balance retraining and strategies for achieving greater independence with community mobility and daily living skills.

The program is offered during the fall and spring academic semesters at the Salvation Army Senior Center, 1022 Liberty St. and over the summer on Gannon's campus and is a collaborative effort with Parkinson Partners of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Hamot Health Foundation and the Salvation Army Senior Center. The program was presented at the 2016 World Parkinson Congress in Portland, OR.

Graduate occupational therapy students provide direct, hands-on assistance and develop mutually beneficial, therapeutic relationships with the participants. Together, they work as a team to support the participants' wellness goals.

Chelsea Cox has participated in the program for two years, most recently as a graduate assistant. In that role, she prepared warm-up or cool-down activities and obstacle courses or relay races, and also created exercises for the participants. "The part I found most meaningful was teaching the participants how to line dance," said Cox, who has danced since she was three years old.

"To incorporate dance into my major was special and meaningful to me. Dance helps to make improvements in balance, cognition and memory, and both the men and women enjoyed this. It was fulfilling to see the participants being able to laugh and have fun for an hour and a half each week. Not only are we helping them physically, but the psychosocial component is equally as important."

The Purposeful Movement and Wellness Program is one of the many outreach initiatives that the Gannon community is part of and relates back to one of the strategic goals of the University - engaging in the community.

David LeVan, DHSc, program director of the occupational therapy program, said of the Wellness Program, "Together with community partners, Gannon is providing an invaluable resource to people with Parkinson's disease and an opportunity for students to actively learn knowledge and skills need for success as future healthcare providers."

Potential participants can apply online at or contact Lynne Gotham, coordinator of Parkinson Partners of Northwestern Pennsylvania here or 814-899-3030. 

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