A north Alabama woman had traveled the world, but couldn’t take her next step until she moved to a nursing home.

At 77 years old, Elizabeth Penn thought she had reached the end of the road. Numerous doctors and therapists had all but given up on her walking again.

“I was going downhill fast,” Elizabeth recalls. It was a tough situation for someone who traveled extensively and would go wherever she wanted.

While her body was broken, Elizabeth’s spirit remained strong when she moved to El Reposo Nursing Facility in Florence two years ago. Hard work, determination and support from the nursing home staff led to a remarkable improvement.

“First of all, it saved my life. They provided a happy and caring atmosphere,” Elizabeth explains. “I am walking again with minimal assistance, pivoting for transfers and going on local trips with my friends.”

She’s now using her experience of overcoming tremendous obstacles to encourage other nursing home residents to do their best. As vice-president of the Resident Council, a group similar to a student government association, Elizabeth is a voice for people who can’t speak for themselves. She takes extra time to welcome new residents to El Reposo and help them feel comfortable in their new home.

“Ms. Penn is such an inspiration,” El Reposo Nursing Facility Administrator Beth Anerton said. “She shows such poise, grace and dignity to all she meets. Since she joined our family, she inspires others to never give up.”

These are the latest steps in Elizabeth’s life journey that has taken her many places. Her 20 year career as an elementary school teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, was cut short with an early retirement due to breast cancer. She gives God credit every day that she’s a survivor. She’s visited several European countries, rafted down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and traveled on an African safari.

Elizabeth considers Tupelo, Mississippi, to be her hometown. She earned bachelors and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama. She has two daughters and two grandchildren.

Elizabeth will take another remarkable step on her road to recovery on July 27 when she competes as a top 10 finalist at the Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant in Birmingham. You can leave words of encouragement in the comments section below or share this article on social media to show your support.

For more information about the pageant, click here.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in a 10 part series about the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 20, we’ll post a story about Ms. Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center Lydia Guthrie.