Social media feeds were flooded this week with adorable pictures of children heading back to class, many of whom were holding message boards with their name, grade and what they want to be when they grow up.
Wanting to get in on the back-to-school fun, a group of seniors from a retirement residence in Lloyminster, Alta. did the very same thing. But instead of sharing their hopes and dreams for the future, they shared messages of advice for the kids heading back to class.
And their advice has since gone viral.
Each of the seniors pictured held up message boards with their name, age, where and when they graduated and some advice for students.
The words of wisdom spanned from “Be yourself” and “Work hard, study hard,” to “Always try to see the good in people,” and “Stay off drugs!”
Retirement home resident Irene Knowlson, 86, took part in the photo shoot. She said her advice for kids to “pay attention in class” was the first thing that came to her mind.
“I don’t like kids fooling around. I want them to listen,” she said via Skype from the Dr. James Hemstock Retirement Residence Friday, adding a bit more guidance to the younger generation.
“I sure like the idea of: keep away from drugs. I know these are younger children, but you’re never too young.”
Photographer Jason Whiting said the idea spawned from a similar post he saw on social media. He reached out to a friend of his who works at the facility to see if the residents would be game. The idea blew up from there.
Whiting, of Videre Images, took the pictures last weekend and shared them on his Facebook page on Tuesday, the first day of school for many Alberta kids. By Friday, the post had been shared more than 50,000 times and Whiting said the impressions show it’s reached upwards of six million people.
“I look through the comments every once in a while and just pick a few and go in to see where these people are from and they are from all over,” he said Friday.
“They’ve been all the way from down in Texas, California, over in Nova Scotia. Someone from the Philippines even reached out. It’s pretty cool.”
He knew the post would be popular, but admits he never dreamed it would reach this many people. He believes the simple, yet genuine advice is what resonates with so many people across the world.
“I’m really moved by the comments. In an age where a lot of things can go viral, a lot of things are viral for the wrong reasons. But this is a viral post that, in my mind, has meaning to it. If I was to have a viral post, I’m so happy that this was the post and these seniors’ advice is what is getting out there into the world,” Whiting said.
“There is a wealth of knowledge in any one of our older generations and if we take a moment just to consider each one of these words of advice, we’ll be much smarter and wiser, just like them.”
Everyone involved is overwhelmed by the amount of love the gesture has received. They just hope the messages will resonate with students, and everyone else, for that matter.
“I think they will get the message. I think they will listen,” Knowlson said.
Watch below: Lifestyle expert Janette Ewen shares some money-saving back to school tips and how trends for the school year are being inspired by the 1980s and 1990s.