Glen Higa from the Hawai’i Parkinson Association: Live Your Life and Smile

An interview with Glen Higa from the Hawai’i Parkinson Association: Live Your Life and Smile on February 12, 2024 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.


I was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s in 2018 at the age of 47.  In 2021, I became a personal trainer working exclusively with people who have Parkinson’s after a 20-plus-year career as an advertising and sports marketing executive.  In 2023, I became the president of the Hawaii Parkinson Association.


Can you tell me more about your organization?


HPA is an all-volunteer organization supporting the state of Hawaii.  Our core mission is to positively impact the lives of all those affected by Parkinson’s in Hawaii through support, programs, education and other services.


What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?


My passion is helping others living with Parkinson’s to live their best lives.  I became involved in Parkinson’s awareness early on in my diagnosis when I approached then president Jerry Boster about assisting him in fund raising.  That started my journey with Parkinson’s and has continued through my work as a personal trainer with Fitness Therapy Hawaii.


What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?


They want to live a normal life and live their best lives.  They want to regain their confidence and focus.  Finally, they want to resume their daily activities of life.


What type of training and how long are the programs?


Currently I am working at Fitness Therapy Hawaii which is the only Parkinson’s focused gym in Hawaii.  We do a wide array of exercise such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), cardio, strength, flexibility and multitasking.

What effect can it have on an individual with Parkinson’s?


It’s empowering.  It can give them a sense of regaining their life, their confidence and independence.  We have seen clients come in using a mobility device and in months walk out of here standing tall and proud. 


What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?


It would be available to anyone, anywhere in the world through online video sessions.


What events do you participate in?


 At HPA, I participate in a lot of Parkinson’s related presentations.  My goal is to spread my inspirational message that you can live your best life with Parkinson’s.


How does this also assist the caregivers?


 It can lessen the burden on caregivers by having the PWP able to do more things independently, giving the caregivers more time to do things they enjoy themselves.


How can someone get in touch?  What is your website?


How can others also become advocates for awareness?


 By getting involved in your local Parkinson’s community association.  At Hawaii Parkinson Association, we have created new committees focusing on increasing the number of support groups, and increasing awareness through education and community outreach.


In your opinion what is the key to effective advocacy?


Making people aware of the social and economic cost of Parkinson’s in the United States and their local community.


How can we better fundraise to support a cure for Parkinson’s?


In my opinion, we need to better fundraise to support those currently living with Parkinson’s, especially young onsets who will live with this condition longer.


What other activities do you undertake to help improve and support your daily living Eg exercise and alternative remedies?


 I exercise a lot, on average 5 times a week.  I put my body through a lot so that I can achieve my goal of not using a mobility device ever.  I also take supplements such as Fish Oil, Turmeric, Magnesium and a transdermal B1 patch.


Why should people who don’t have Parkinson’s care about this?


Parkinson’s affects more people than just those who have it.  The cost of Parkinson’s to the U.S. economy is $52 billion a year.


Have you had any family members or relatives affected by Parkinson’s disease?



If you had one song that would tell us more about you or represent your life which song would it be?


“Journey” by Maoli


If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?


 No one should feel isolated or alone when dealing with Parkinson’s.  There are a lot of people and resources available for you to reach out to.  We are all here to support everyone.