Spring 2017 – Seniors Helping Seniors Spring Scholarship – 1st Place Winner

Bay Alarm Medical

June 1, 2017

The first place $2,500 scholarship was awarded to Alex Carpenter, who is currently a junior at Luther College, studying to become a Geriatric Physical Therapist.

Starting my freshman year of college four hours away from home was not an easy feat. Thankfully I always knew who to call when I needed someone to talk to. My grandparents were always there for me (in addition to my parents). Evan and Bonnie Carpenter were eager to hear about the activities I was involved in and tried to visit me at Luther College at least once per semester. Whenever I made it home for breaks or on a weekend, I eagerly looked forward to visiting them at their home they have lived in for more than 40 years. This eagerness to visit them exponentially increased after I received a phone call from my father on a bleak January afternoon. My grandfather Evan was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer. The doctors explained that he did not have much time to live, maybe a year. His diagnosis did not cease his witty personality and ability to enjoy spending time with his family. I learned from my grandfather to never give up hope and to always make time for the little things in life. Though he was exhausted from chemotherapy and the overall negative effects of the aggressive cancer, he continued to stay involved in the lives of his children and grandchildren.

My grandfather had some setbacks in his battle with cancer. The most detrimental setback was when he fell and broke his hip at home the week before Christmas 2015. Because he was so weak, doctors recommended to stop his cancer treatment. After his hospital stay, he was placed in a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation and eventually moved to an assisted living facility. The following months were very tough on my family, especially my grandmother. By early March (2016), he was extremely weak. However, there was an upcoming event that he was determined to attend. At Luther College, I am in the concert band, which happened to tour around the Midwest last year during spring break. Our first concert was in my hometown Appleton, WI, on March 18. Though I was hoping my grandfather would be in the audience that evening, my father explained to me that he was too fragile to travel in a vehicle to the concert. To my surprise, he made it to that concert. This was the kind of man he was, always determined to stay involved in the lives of his family, despite the circumstances. Three weeks after the concert on April 6, 2016, I received a call from my father with news of my grandfather’s passing.

My grandfather taught me so much about how to be a genuine person. Through his actions, he taught me to always stay humble, kind, and to always take extra time to have conversations with everyone you encounter. While he was in the nursing and assisted living homes he had continuous visitors. As one of the visitors, I noticed the many other people in these homes who were not as socially fortunate as my grandfather. I also made this observation during my shadowing experience with physical therapists in a couple nursing homes. These observations have driven me to give back to the elderly. My grandfather and the residents who do not receive many visitors have inspired me to become a certified nursing assistant. As of March 10 (2017), I became state certified in both Wisconsin and Iowa. I work at Aase Haugen Senior Services in Decorah, IA during the school year and will be working at Oakridge Gardens Rehabilitation and Memory Center in Menasha, WI this coming summer. I am a junior at Luther College this year, studying to become a geriatric physical therapist. My experience working with the elderly population has influenced me to work with elderly people for the rest of my life.

I believe that everyone should spend more time with their grandparents or seniors who live in their community. At my college, I recently started a student organization named “GrandPALS” which pairs Luther College students with residents in nursing and assisted living homes in Decorah. Though the organization is just getting started, we have about 20 students visiting with elderly residents. I am hoping the group continues to grow in size, especially before I graduate from Luther next spring. The residents I have worked with through this organization look forward to meeting with their student volunteer. Building connections between students and elderly residents allows the residents to get their mind off the fact that they are in a nursing facility, even if it is just a short visit once a week. The resident that I was paired up with is always so excited to chat with me, and was eager to invite me to his 100th birthday party on April 6. It is amazing how making small connections with the geriatric population can have such a positive impact on both the residents and the student volunteers.

I miss my grandfather so much. He was such a great man who made sure everyone had a smile on their face. Through his inspiration, I hope to continue spreading the cheer, especially through my work with the seniors.


2nd Place Winner

3rd Place Winner