98-Year-Old Nursing Home Resident Spends 40 Hours A Week Volunteering, Helping Others

A recent feature story in the Chicago Tribue highlights the concept that you are never too old to help others.

Portions of the article are reprinted below:

"Catherine Walker is 98 years old, soon to be 99, and if she wants to sing a song about beer, she'll sing it. If someone's bugging her, she'll say so. And if you ask about her carrot cake recipe, she'll tell you it's unrivaled.

"I make damn good cake." Her unblinking eyes suggest you not argue.

This white-haired woman's pep and vitality make her a force of nature at the nursing home where she volunteers. And her devotion to a certain group at the center has also made her a source of unfailing goodwill.

Walker has been a resident at the home for five years. Eschewing an array of daily activities and social events, she spends her time volunteering -- often more than 40 hours a week -- in the New Day Memory Support Area, a wing of the facility devoted to residents who have Alzheimer's disease.

It's there that she has found a late-in-life joy, lending her razor-sharp memory and shoot-from-the-hip humor to a room full of people who at times struggle to recall their last names.

"I love these people here," Walker says, standing at a table, helping a group of her friends make beaded jewelry. "I just love them. There's Christine -- she's my singing partner. And Pat down there. We just have a good old time."

And with a quick "Ohhhhh ..." from Walker, the group breaks into song: "... I want a beer, just like the beer that pickled dear old Dad ..."

Joyce Rinkevicius coordinates activities and watches over the center's residents who have Alzheimer's. Mention Walker and Rinkevicius says, without hyperbole, "That lady's my right arm."

"You have people who live, who go through their lives and do amazing things and never get noticed. That's Catherine. She's someone who has made a difference in all these people's lives. Without her around so much they might otherwise be sitting and staring into space. She keeps them going." For more, read the story.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia. 


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