Alice Walker, 87, Chester, South Carolina
Nothing Keeps Alice Down
If you compare Alice Walker’s lifestyle and athletic accomplishments to her history of medical issues over eight decades, you would not believe she is the same person. A horrific accident left her with limited use of her left arm. Her kidney needed to be removed. Blot clots. Knee replacements. Chronic arthritis. There’s more, but you get the idea.
Yet, the South Carolina native has bowled twice a week since 1969. She has participated in Senior Games since her retirement in 1989, and it’s not unusual for her to compete in a dozen or more sports at the state level. Alice brought home two bronze medals from the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana in June as another testimony to her perseverance.
Alice Walker has also experienced two accidental falls in recent times, but unlike many lesser active peoples in their late 80s, she survived both and has carried on with her life. Both falls happened at home, with the first in 2018.
“I was getting dressed in my walk-in closet and slipped on something when I turned,” she recalls. “I had an awful time getting back up because of my shoulder injury and surgeries. The left side of my body was sore.” Alice deals with a damaged rotator cuff and burn injuries resulting from a 1989 work accident when she was a culinary arts instructor, which permanently weakened her left arm. She had the presence of mind to grab on some hanging clothes to help break her fall.
The second fall happened just weeks before her trip to Albuquerque for the 2019 National Senior Games. “I was getting out of my bed, which is a little high up, and I started sliding when I put my feet down. My legs slid under the edge of the bed when I fell to the floor,” she says. “I called to my daughter to help but I couldn’t bear for her to touch my left side. She got on the computer and found out how I could roll and get up using pillows with my right arm, but I was on the floor for two hours.”
After receiving physical therapy, water aerobics and obtaining an alert device, Alice is back up and doing the things she enjoys, like winning medals in Senior Games. She says staying active both physically and mentally has given her the ability to overcome the falls and the other challenges she has been through. “Sometimes I hurt so badly,” she admits. “But I just keep going on and don’t let that hold me back. No pain, no gain, you know. Once I get into my games I forget about my aches and pains.”
Alice firmly believes that being involved in both sports and social activities with her children and church has kept her alert and in shape to handle what life has dealt her. “I’ve always been very active. I put my three children into sports to keep them busy, too,” she observes. Her lifelong example has inspired them to follow her lead to also compete in National Senior Games – this year, daughters Marlyne bowled, Wanda played badminton and pickleball, and Karen played shuffleboard. “I played with them all the time as they were growing up,” she says. “I’m very competitive and played to win, so I think they picked that up too.”
Alice has her sights set on qualifying in next year’s South Carolina Senior Sports Classic on her way to another national experience in Greater Fort Lauderdale in 2021. “I am here by the grace of God, and I will keep doing this as long as I can!”
Editor’s Note: NSGA is a partner to promoting National Falls Prevention Awareness Day each September. Our research on highly active older adults who compete in The Games reveals that they experience falls at one-third the rate of their age peers, and that a larger percentage recover from falls they do experience. Alice Walker is just such an example that puts a face on our results. Keep moving!