University of Louisville’s Trager Institute honors elders for ‘optimal aging’

The University of Louisville’s Trager Institute honored 34 men and women aged 85 and older for “optimal aging,” a distinction that recognizes them as models for older adults.

The Gold Standard for Optimal Aging Award Ceremony was held Sept. 30 at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. The honorees are recognized for aging well in one or more of the following areas: physical, spiritual, social, civic and creative.

Among the honorees are a retired Archdiocese of Louisville priest, an Ursuline Sister and six individuals who have served in the Catholic community.

The Rev. Jerry Eifler, 86, is a retired priest of the archdiocese. His nomination said he is a “person gifted in many diverse areas.” He not only served the Archdiocese of Louisville, but the wider community as a board member of the Louisville Free Public Library, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Neighborhood Association of Germantown. He is also credited with developing the Clifton Center, which provided a hub for the arts in the area. Father Eifler has published three books of his homilies and he’s an accomplished painter, the nomination said. For 40 years, Father Eifler has led groups on tours of Europe. 

Ursuline Sister Julia Davis, 85, has volunteered for the past 14 years at Norton Audubon Hospital, where she greets people and helps them find their way in the hospital. She said she aims to be a “joyful, positive presence for relatives and other visitors who may be entering the hospital with much on their minds and hearts.” As a Sacred Heart Academy alumna, she attends events on the school’s campus and has chaperoned groups of students to a leadership conference in New Rochelle, N.Y. Sister Davis is a past recipient of the WLKY Bell Award, which honors outstanding volunteers.

Rita Durbin, 91, is still an active parishioner of St. John Paul II Church. Durbin worked for 30 years in the Jefferson County Public Schools system in special education. She has many memories of working with children who needed extra care and help, her nomination said. Durbin, who was widowed twice, served as a long-time organizer and member of the Widow or Widowers (WOW) group. She also enjoys dancing and gardening.

Abbie Creed, 91, served for more than four decades at St. Raphael Church and School. She started out as the coordinator of religious education and a few years into that role, she was hired as a full-time teacher for fourth grade. In 2004 Creed was honored with the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Outstanding Religious Educator of the Year Award. She retired from her full-time role after she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She now serves as a volunteer at school Masses, co-chairs the bereavement committee, serves as sacristan, helps in the parish office and is a lector and eucharistic minister. She also volunteered as a speaker for Hosparus, helping medical students understand the importance of compassion and listening when sharing difficult news with patients and families, her nomination said. 

Betty French, 85, sings in the Resurrection Choir for funerals at St. John Paul II Church, where she is a parishioner. She has served for close to 10 years on the parish council. She also helped to lead the Widow or Widowers (WOW) group, according to her nomination. French comes from a military background. Her father, one of her sons and three of her granddaughters have served in the U.S. Army. One granddaughter serves in the U.S. Airforce. 

Roma Houchin, 86, volunteers for the Louisville Metro Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), serving for the last 12 years at the former Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital and now University of Louisville Health’s Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. She enjoys greeting patients and visitors and directing them around the hospital. She also enjoys knitting and crocheting. 

Marjorie “Margie” Manning, 93,is the personification of one who has combined hard work, deep faith and fun to reach age 93 with enthusiasm and grace,” according to her nomination. She retired from the University of Louisville after 23 years in 1992. She continued to serve by volunteering for Harbor House, Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, Meals on Wheels and the Kentucky Center for the Arts. For 13 years, she arranged bus tours for her church groups, traveling around the United States. 

Arla Nesbit, 87, has been a Louisville Metro Retired Senior Volunteer Program and SilverNotes singer for close to 10 years. In addition to performing at nursing homes, retirement homes, schools and childcare centers, she also volunteers at St. Matthews Area Ministries. She enjoys knitting, especially needlework. She is a retired nurse.

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