Ken Hobbins knows a lot about overcoming obstacles. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the age of 23. “My wife and I were young and, we thought, invincible. I was working at Republic Airlines and I had a series of odd experiences. Eventually I got a CAT scan—there were no MRIs at that time,” Ken said. He had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The treatment saved his life but not without ongoing side effects. By the time he was 35, Ken was having problems with his hearing and eyesight.
Ken has never let his physical and cognitive challenges slow him down. He completed an MBA and a MS degree in counseling and had a successful career as a rehabilitation counselor with the State of Minnesota. “No matter what I’m facing, I always have faith that it’s going to get better. I’ve never thought of myself as a person with a disability. My focus is always on what I need to do to overcome whatever is in the way.”
Reducing Fear of Falling
Now at 62, Ken is experiencing dizziness and has had a couple of falls. His fear of falling led him to A Matter of Balance, a Juniper program led by a woman who has been a friend of his for years, Barb MacIntyre.
“A Matter of Balance has been very valuable to me,” Ken said. “It’s taught me how to walk in a balanced way and how to integrate strengthening and flexibility into my everyday life. Now I flex my ankles as I stand in line at the bank and incorporate strengthening activities in things I do throughout my day.” He’s also learned how to stand up without triggering dizziness. One of his favorite things about the class is the flashcards. “They make it easy for me do the exercises regularly on my own.”
Life Changes Require New Flexibility
“Recently, I have had two big changes. I was forced to retire because of health issues and I had to give up driving. It’s been difficult for me,” Ken said. But he is not letting these obstacles stop him either. “I’m taking the bus and light rail now. I’m able to volunteer at Episcopal Homes in Saint Paul, which is situated on the Green Line. I help the trainer with exercise classes and doing fitness tests for older adults in their community.”
Health Coach, Barb MacIntyre, Is a Superstar
Ken gives Barb MacIntyre lots of credit for why he is able to do all that he does. “Barb is very modest, but she is a superstar. Her knowledge, caring and support has made an incredible difference to me.” Barb was a clinical director with HealthEast for 33 years and retired in 2011. Now she is a health coach for HealthEast and Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. She was a pioneer in integrating mind, body and spirit in clinical work, introducing healing touch at HealthEast years before it gained widespread acceptance.
“What I like about the class is that it combines exercise with talking and connecting with each other,” Barb said. “Part of what makes this work is that people see me as a peer. We all learn from each other. People feel comfortable enough to share their concerns, successes and ideas. As the sessions progress, they grow in richness.” The class runs for eight weeks, two hours per session. In Barb’s last class people ranged in age from 60s to 90s. “So many people have a fear of falling and if you’re afraid of something, chances are you will quit doing things that put you at risk for it,” Barb said. “Then it becomes the start of a spiraling downward. Ken is such a good role model for overcoming fear. It’s not that he’s fearless. It’s that he’s willing to look his fear in the face and go beyond it.”