93-Year-Old Nurse to Retire After 7 Decades, Will Spend Free Time Volunteering at Nursing Home
Medicine may always be changing, but for this 93-year-old nurse, taking care of others has always stayed the same.
Now, after being a nurse for more than 70 years, Alice Graber of South Dakota has finally decided it's time to retire.
"I enjoy it. I didn't have anything else to do, and I don't have any other talents," Graber told InsideEdition.com. "It's one way I can at least take care of somebody. That's why I kept going."
Though there was often talk among the patients that a nurse at the Salem Mennonite Home for the Aged was older than many of the residents, other staff at the assisted living facility knew of the 93-year-old as "an energetic go-getter nurse [who's] always been good with patients."
After both her parents passed away at a young age, Graber said she was given the responsibility to take care of her two younger siblings, which is when she realized that taking care of others was her passion.
Her aunt Minnie then suggested Graber go into a career in nursing, so when she graduated from high school, she started a three-year nurse's program at the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"The lord took care of me, and I got into nurse's training," Graber remembered. "It's been a gift all along."
Her career later took her to the Freeman Community Hospital, where she became mentor to an up-and-coming nurse, Shirley Knobel in 1979.
"I always had a great respect for her," Knobel told InsideEdition.com. "She trained me in procedures we don't even do today."
Knobel, 58, said even though the woman was trained in the era when penicillin was still an emerging drug, Graber has been able to adapt to and continue learning new medications and procedures.
"Some people can't keep up with all the changes — it just overwhelms them," Knobel said. "She has done phenomenally well in it [during] her career. I don't know how anyone can keep going that long with all the changes in healthcare."
But one thing that remained constant was Graber's good health. The only ailment the 93-year-old suffers from is arthritis, and pain in her knees, "but I take a Tylenol and grit my teeth, and there I go. The dear Lord has been good to me as long as my body is concerned."
Graber spent the last 20 years in the field at the Salem Mennonite Home in Freeman, where she cared for residents of the assisted living senior home as an on-call nurse.
"I think about half the residents are younger than I am," she joked. "They don't seem to mind, but they don't believe it when I tell them."
Finally, at 93 years old, Graber has decided it was time to retire. She said although her body is well and she plans to continue volunteering at nursing homes in her town, but admits she was getting worn out trying to learn medical advances as they developed.
Graber insisted she did not need a going away celebration, but Knodel, who has since become the director of the Salem Mennonite Home, insisted on throwing her a retirement party.
Though the women live in a small town, more than 150 people who knew Graber stopped by the party last month to thank her for delivering them as a baby, or helping them through hard times.
"I couldn't believe all the people came to congratulate me," Graber said. "I just thought it was incredible."
In her retirement, Graber will spend her free time volunteering at a nursing home where she feeds patients who can't feed themselves, and recreating old German recipes that she often sends to fundraising events.
"Not everyone can make the German foods she can make anymore," Knobel said. "It's a lost art."