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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Photo Series: Walk with an Eagle

Larry Guinn, Tatiana Tillery, Becky Guinn, and Paul Peterson (left to right). Photo taken by Trinity Rietmann.

On Tuesday evenings, students can be seen strolling around the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus with older adults from the La Crosse community. They spend an hour walking together and chatting as part of the Walk with an Eagle program. 

“I look forward to these Tuesdays,” said Dan Abts, a Walk with an Eagle participant. “The other six days of the week I go out by myself… but I look forward to the Tuesdays where I have someone to walk and talk with.” 

Walk with an Eagle pairs older adults with UWL students in order to give recreational therapy students hands-on experience while impacting the lives of people from the community. 

Participants meet on campus at the Health Science Center before splitting into smaller groups to walk for an hour, either indoors or outdoors. The participants enjoy the exercise, and many choose to walk outside, especially as the days get warmer. The students enjoy this aspect as well since they are usually indoors for classes. 

“I like being able to go outside,” said Student Tatiana Tillery. “I am usually inside most of the day with school and studying, so it’s a nice chance for me to get outside and walk around and get some fresh air.” 

The students walk with the same people each week, allowing strong relationships to form between the students and the older adults as they talk about a variety of topics.  

“The smiles that I see and the connection between the students and the walkers just makes the program a special program,” Professor Jennifer Taylor said. “Since each student is paired up with a walker, they build that relationship week after week.” 

Walk with an Eagle began last year as a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and has been going strong since then. 

“We had no idea if it would work,” said Taylor. “We started a walking program in the middle of winter, but we had a great response and more people every week.” 

The retention rate has been close to one hundred percent since the program started with most people coming back each week and bringing new people with them. 

“The response just keeps growing and growing. We have so many walkers now,” Taylor said. “Before we had more students than walkers, and now we have three times the number of walkers to students.” 

Because of this, the Recreational Therapy for Mental Health class has joined the Recreational Therapy for Older Adults class in participating in the Walk with an Eagle program.  

The Recreational Therapy for Mental Health students do not walk with the older adults every week, but they still enjoy their time interacting with the older adults and have created workshops for the Walk with an Eagle participants. 

Last week they led a workshop focused on technology, specifically how video games and virtual reality can improve the well-being of older adults. 

“I had to really rethink the way I think about technology and the use of video games,” said Becky Guinn, a Walk with an Eagle participant. She continued on to share how her perspective had changed after learning about the positive impacts video games and virtual reality can have on older adults with physical disabilities or those experiencing loneliness. 

Not only are the older adults learning new things, they are also sharing their knowledge with the younger generation, especially on how campus has changed over the years. 

“A lot of them went to school here or graduated on campus, so when we walk around, they get to tell us about the different buildings that they’ve seen renovated,” said Student Mikayla Guldan. “It’s definitely something cool to hear about to learn a little more about campus history.” 

The students also enjoy listening to the older adult’s life stories while the older adults like to hear about the younger people’s experience as students including their hopes and dreams for the future. 

“I think it’s cool to make connections with other people in the community that you might not otherwise be able to make connections with and to be able to hear their stories and get different perspectives on life.” said Student Paige Ruppert. 

Walk with an Eagle has made an impact on all of the students and older adults involved, and will continue to do so as the program keeps growing here at UWL. 

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About the Contributor
Trinity Rietmann
Trinity Rietmann, Photojournalist
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: she/her/hers
  • Hometown: Baraboo
  • Major: Art Education
  • Minor: Photography and Recreation Management
  • Other Campus Involvement: Women's Rugby Team
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Become an art teacher
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Hiking at the Bluffs
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