Every time I drove by the Buchanan Centre, I was intrigued as to how they support people with Parkinson’s disease.

My interest was recently piqued when I made a friend on the dance floor, Ron Ebbers, who was learning tango to counteract the disease’s progression. According to research studies, the  music, movement, and shared support from your dance partner helps counteract Parkinson’s conditions of loss of balance and orientation.

Ebbers agreed to discuss his experience with Parkinson’s disease with me while we were at the Buchanan Centre. He was diagnosed 11 years ago when he was 55 years old.

“Fortunately, it has not yet changed my lifestyle. The progression has been slow. My voice has softened. The meds reduce the shaking and elevate my dopamine levels. I still drive and mostly do what I want to do, although my outdoor, high-risk activities have gone by the wayside.”

Ebbers has participated in most of the programs at the Buchanan Centre.

“They are excellent. I still get the quarterly newsletter. What I am finding most helpful these days is the support group sponsored by the Parkinson Association of Alberta. I used to attend one here at the Centre, but now I go to the one in Fort Saskatchewan which is closer to my home in Gibbons.”

Ebbers gives me a quick tour of the Buchanan Centre, which is spacious and well equipped. The facility has a gym, meeting rooms, office space, a library and lounge, and a kitchen. It also has a 1,500-square-foot meeting room with a video screen, sound system, and mirrored wall, all helpful for movement programming.

The Buchanan Centre, opened in 2015, is a central hub for the Parkinson Association of Alberta’s activities. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck

Brandi La Bonte, operations manager of the Buchanan Centre, joins the conversation.

“I am very passionate about the work. One of the biggest rewards I get is someone saying, ‘You made me feel special.’ People so often self-identify with their illness. We strive to encourage everyone to appreciate that life is bigger than a physical limitation or condition. No one is allowed to apologize for their disability.”

La Bonte explained the Buchanan Family Foundation owns the Buchanan Centre and opened it in 2015. The Centre functions as a central hub for the Parkinson Association of Alberta’s activities.

“Its addition has made a huge difference in providing supports throughout the province. Alberta in fact has become the envy of the world with its coordinated services for Parkinson’s disease,” said La Bonte.

La Bonte said besides medication, exercise is a crucial treatment.

“If the body is inactive, a resistance to movement builds up. In a sense, the body fights against you. It takes a lot to get the body rebooted. People with Parkinson’s have to work harder, act bigger, speak louder just to maintain normal functioning and presentation in public.”

With this in mind, the facility offers classes like circuit training, yoga, tai chi, and dance. They have massage therapists and Alexander Technique therapists. In addition, they run other programs, such as boxing, through partner facilities.

“In addition, we coordinate numerous provincial programs throughout the province from this Centre, such as the 43 support groups and on-site, in-home, or phone counselling services. A speaker series is regularly hosted in our main program room, which is [recorded] and posted on YouTube for the public to access. No money is made from the programming and registration costs are strictly cost recovery. ”

The Buchanan Centre provides a great service to people with Parkinson’s disease.

Ebber added: “If I had to get an illness at this stage of life, I am glad it was Parkinson’s, because of the exceptional support that is available through the Association and the Buchanan Centre.”


11209 86 St



Featured Image: IMG 1 caption: Rob Ebbers sits in the Buchanan Centre’s library. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck