“Play the hand you’ve been dealt, including the jokers”

Interviews

Author: Aileen ScoularPublished: 17 February 2022

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Lori DePorter and her husband Mike playing Gin Rummy

Former engineer and columnist Lori DePorter explains why she thinks playing popular board games with her husband Mike, at home in Pennsylvania, US, is an invaluable way to engage her mind and practice motor tasks


Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Lori DePorter and I live with my husband Mike (pictured above) in Pennsylvania, US. My Parkinson’s was discovered by accident in 2014, and I was diagnosed at age 45. Like others, I grieved the life I had expected to have. But eventually you accept that you have to play the hand you’ve been dealt, including the jokers.

I made it my mission to empower others with the condition. Eight years later, I am now a writer, a Rock Steady Boxing coach and a personal trainer. In my spare time, Mike and I enjoy ballroom dancing and kayaking, and we also play board games and do jigsaw puzzles together.

A portrait of Lori DePorter

Lori DePorter. Credit: Trish McComb-Lloyd.

Have you always enjoyed playing board games?

My grandmother loved Husker Du and Connect Four, so I played those a lot when I was a child, and many nights in college were spent playing Gin Rummy. When our three sons were growing up, we also enjoyed board games during vacations and family gatherings.

Virtual games are great, but the tactile aspect is lost. And board games bridge the generation gap because they’re timeless.

Has your experience of playing board games changed since your Parkinson’s diagnosis?

I’m still competitive, but I try to find the funny side when I can’t do something like shuffling cards. It’s easy to get caught up in what you ‘can’t do’, but playing board games is a great way to spend time with friends, family, your spouse or partner.

Flipping tiles, dealing cards or manipulating jigsaw puzzle pieces with your ‘Parkinson’s hand’, while singing the ABCs, may also serve as multi-modal training – and I’ve found these activities help me to exercise my motor function and brain at the same time.

Lori enjoys completing jigsaw puzzles with her husband, Mike.

What inspired you to write about this topic on your blog?

Writing has changed my life. Originally, my personal journal was a safe way to unload without burdening anyone, and it became the springboard for my writing. Later, my blog ‘Dance Like No One is Watching’ was picked up and that led to me being offered my column about Parkinson’s called ‘Life, Lemons and Lemonade’. My husband Mike suggested I write about board games during a game of Gin Rummy.

Do you have any favourite board games right now?

We play quite a bit of Rummikub, and our basement walls are lined with jigsaw puzzles we’ve glued together that show places we’ve visited over the years. But any game is worth a try – just don’t get too hung up on the rules. Be creative to make it fun because if you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it.

What is your advice for other people in the Parkinson’s community?

Parkinson’s is seen as a condition that takes things from you. While that may be true, it also can bring good things into your life – things you never expected. Be open to them.

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” I think that’s one of the best quotes for anyone facing a challenge. My advice is: choose to be happy and be present in your life. Don’t just make a bucket list – live your list.

Need to know

Lori DePorter was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s in 2014, at the age of 45. Previously an engineer, the mum of three has since become a writer, a Rock Steady Boxing Coach and a personal trainer – who aims to empower other people living with Parkinson’s. She produces a regular column, ‘Life, Lemons and Lemonade’, for Parkinson’s News Today.


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