Tucson J Expands Healthy Aging Programs

The Tucson Jewish Community Center (the J or the Tucson J) is expanding its Healthy Aging Programs with the rollout of Mind + Body Elder Care and Parkinson’s Fitness Program in August and September.

With one in five persons being over age 65, elder adults comprise over 20% of the population in Tucson and its adjacent communities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about one in nine adults over age 65 has Alzheimer’s, and the Parkinson’s Foundation states that Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s; age is the biggest risk factor for both.

As part of the J’s service pledge to provide the highest quality programs and services to all people of all ages, the J believes it is essential to support aging adults with programming tailored to their unique needs. The J’s new Healthy Aging programs have been developed with this in mind.

The Parkinson’s Fitness Program is supported by a generous community grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation, subsidizing the cost for participants. Additional grant funding will support a limited number of scholarships for the Mind + Body Elder Care program. The J was selected as a recipient of the Parkinson’s Foundation community grant over other applicants in a competitive review, in large part because of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The Jewish value of b’tzelem Elohim guides our approach to this work; all people, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, are inherently valuable — so we’re really thrilled to launch these new offerings as a way to extend our support to this important and growing demographic,” says Amy Dowe, the J’s Director of Fitness + Wellness.

“While the Mind + Body Elder Care program is great for any adult looking to maintain their physical and mental wellness, it is particularly beneficial to those experiencing cognitive and physical decline due to dementia and Alzheimer’s. The Parkinson’s Program is a holistic fitness program specifically for those diagnosed with PD. We’re really excited about it because there is currently only one organization in Tucson with a dedicated program for those living with PD, and it is far less robust than what we are able to provide,” she says.

Designed to support the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being of their participants, Mind + Body Elder Care and the Parkinson’s Fitness Program are adapted to the individual needs of each participant, based on an initial assessment. Participants in the 14-week Mind + Body Elder Care program have the option for a full or half-program and will be paired with a volunteer partner who will guide them through the course with one-on-one instruction on their own schedule. The year-round Parkinson’s Fitness Program is offered as a buffet of classes participants can choose from, including Functional Movement, Cycling, and Dance offered Monday-Friday.

The two programs have been developed by Dowe and the J’s team of expert physical trainers taking the lead on the Parkinson’s Fitness Program; and Marcia Berger, the J’s Director of Elder Adult Programming and physical trainer Rhina Gerhauser re-imagining the J’s former Elder Rehab program founded by Sharon Arkin, to create Mind + Body Elder Care. As the former Executive Director of Arts for All, Berger brings to the work a background as a licensed physical therapist with 34 years of experience developing programming for, and working hands on with, people of all ages and abilities.

“Amy and her staff are true experts in this field, and Marcia’s insight and skills as a physical therapist, combined with her programming and non-profit experience, is invaluable. We are looking forward to the growth and innovation we are confident this team will bring to the work, and proud to be awarded grant funding to ensure it is accessible to those in our community who need it most” says Todd Rockoff, the J’s President + CEO.

For more information about participating or volunteering with Healthy Aging Programs at the J, visit: or contact Marcia Berger, Director of Elder Adult Programming + Development Associate at or 520.299.3000 ext. 240.