Founder, Shaker’s Anonymous and Parkinson’s Body and Mind

A Solution to Coping with Parkinson’s Disease

Photography by ChiChi Ubiña

Lynn Hagerbrant is a retired cardiac, intensive care nurse who has lived in Greenwich for 29 years and been active in the community helping people with Parkinson’s Disease since she was diagnosed with PD in 2010. For many years, she has also been a caregiver for her 88 year old mother, who also has Parkinson’s Disease.

“Unfortunately, we all face adversities in our lives in one way or another. Many times we don’t have a choice of what comes our way but we do have a choice on how to deal with it. It took some time to come to terms with the diagnosis, but I ultimately decided to choose optimism and hope.”

In 2014, Lynn co-founded Shaker’s Anonymous, an education-based support group for people with PD which features expert presentations on promising research. They originally met monthly at the New Canaan YMCA. Throughout the pandemic, their support group met weekly via Zoom and provided everyone with a lifeline to cope with COVID 19. Today, this group has grown to almost 500 members.

In 2019, Lynn worked with members of Shaker’s Anonymous to start an exercise and wellness program at the Greenwich YMCA, called Parkinson’s Body and Mind (PBM) which recognizes exercise as a potent, non-pharmacological treatment for PD. Their mission is to provide people with PD and their partners a system of community-based, peer led, support groups and comprehensive exercise and wellness programs to improve the symptoms and fight the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.  Matthew Skaarup, CEO of the Greenwich YMCA states, “The Parkinson’s Body and Mind program is an example of the YMCA’s ability to strengthen communities through collaboration.  Lynn’s vision has found a home at the YMCA and now those diagnosed with Parkinson’s have found a new community to be part of here at the Y.” There are exercise and wellness classes every day at the Greenwich YMCA for people with PD to attend in person or on Zoom. In addition, the PBM program is at the Westport/Weston, Fairfield and the New Canaan YMCAs.

Lynn explains, “Our two community-based efforts to help people with PD at the Greenwich and other YMCAs have captured the attention of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, where I currently serve as an advisor on the Michael J. Fox Patient Council.” The unique features that contribute to the success of PBM are: 1) The programs are all run through YMCA community centers that are accessible. 2) The programs have been peer-led. They are run by people who have PD or the partners of people who have PD. 3) Exercise class instructors are trained and certified in their field, such as boxing, they are also trained and certified to run exercise classes for people with PD.

There is a collaboration with Teachers College’s Neurorehabilitation Research Lab / Columbia University (Lori Quinn, Associate Professor of Movement Science and Kinesiology) to advance PDBM by providing:

            – Individualized pre- and post-assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the classes and motivate the participant; and to Develop a certification program for instructors

            – In conjunction with PDBM exercise classes, local support groups led by people with PD and their partners meet weekly. This is a supplement to the national Shakers Anonymous support group that also meets weekly.

            – Community Mindfulness Project (CMP) is also collaborating with Shakers Anonymous and Parkinson’s Body & Mind Program (PBM) with a supportive program designed to meaningfully improve the wellbeing for those with Parkinson’s Disease and their partners.

Parkinson’s Body and Mind Program is in the process of applying for tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3). “We are ready to advance from a volunteer movement to a unique, non-profit organization,” says Lynn.

To learn more about the programs email parkinsonsbodyandmind.org

Please reach out to Lynn:  hagerbrant@gmail.com or (203)253-0002