OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — When you arrive at the Santa Fe Family Life Center, you will hear a lot of sounds, maybe basketballs bouncing, and drumming.

Yes, drumming.

That’s because the OKC Veteran Affairs Recreational Therapy department is using drumming classes for Veterans with Parkinson’s Disease.

“This is a Therapeutic Recreation Music and Movement group designed for Veterans with Parkinson’s Disease (PD),” said Kacie Ingram, OKC VA Recreation Therapist. “We started with bucket drumming as our treatment modality for our inaugural 10 weeks.”

This is a new 10-week program designed specifically for those with Parkinson’s to help make those brain body connections that the disease may break down.

“We wanted to provide a program to assist our Veterans with Parkinson’s, in being physically and cognitively active in a safe treatment environment,” Ingram said.

Parkinson’s Disease can cause shaking, shuffling steps, rigid muscles, loss of automatic movement, and many other symptoms.

Many veterans participating in the therapy say it has helped their quality of life.

“My students started complaining, the professor seemed confused at times,” said Navy Veteran, Donald Coates. “I didn’t get to teach anymore, and I got to feeling useless. But then I started going to classes like this and wood carving, water aerobics, ballet and different things that keep me busy and active. They help with the depression of not being as useful anymore.”

Navy Veteran Donald Coates. Image courtesy OKC VA

“I’m a musician but with Parkinson’s you lose the ability to play,” Air Force and Navy Reserves Veteran Michael Murray said. “You don’t realize it until you try doing it again. But you get out and you do these activities, and the coordination comes back. I’m talking better, I’m walking better I didn’t need my cane today. It’s an interesting improvement.”

Air Force and Navy Reserves Veteran Michael Murray. Image courtesy OKC VA.

“In the past 10 weeks Veterans have expressed they’ve noticed reduced tremors, particularly in their upper extremities,” said Rebecca McCoy, Creative Arts Recreation Therapist. “Utilizing music helps to cue movements temporally, spatially, and dynamically during exercises. This assists their brains in practicing desired functional movements that then can transfer to their day to day lives.”

Veterans with Parkinson’s are encouraged to ask their primary care physician for a referral.