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Wise Words: Seniors share inspiration for maintaining mental health as pandemic wears on

Wise Words: Seniors dole out advice for coping with COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Seniors share wisdom for keeping perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic during our special Global News Wise Words segment.

Who better to lend perspective on coping with the ongoing effects of COVID-19 than seniors, who have seen and heard a lot in their day.

Global News asked for their best advice.

Look to your heroes

With our cameras staying clear of long-term care homes during the pandemic, staff at Edmonton’s Canterbury Court filmed residents and shared their words with Global News.

Tom Houlihan was one of several seniors to provide sage advice.

“A message of encouragement you’d like to send to others?” he said.

“Stay strong, stay resilient, stay happy, keep smiling, walk every day. And most important: say hello to your loved ones.”

Houlihan added, “And we shall overcome.”

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He paused, and repeated quietly, “We shall overcome,” and then, his eyes twinkling, he asked the staff member filming him, “And you know who made that line famous? Martin Luther King. Have to give a shout-out to him.”

Editor’s note: Sadly, Tom Houlihan passed away unexpectedly this week. We were honoured to capture some of his wisdom during a time when families can’t be together. 

Keep busy

We met Opal Gano near her Holyrood home, under a favourite tree festooned with bird feeders.

Fitting then that her advice for weathering challenging times is to find peace in watching nature and the city around you.

READ MORE: National grief strategy needed to help Canadians cope with coronavirus, say experts

But the 95-year-old cautions against spending all your time with gadgets. Same goes for kitchen utensils:

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“I think at my age it’s time to forget what the stove looks like.”

Check your perspective

Douglas MacDougall shares that he graduated from dentistry school in 1941 and went straight into the army during the Second World War.

Considered one of the darkest periods in modern history, he describes it as “kind of a stressful time for some of us.”

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READ MORE: Global mental health crisis looming due to coronavirus pandemic, UN warns

And he highlights the positive: “Looking back, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I got to see Great Britain and I got to see most of Europe. It was quite an education for me.”

“How did we manage? We just did what we were told.”

The Second World War also shaped Doreen Losie’s outlook.

Losie told first of growing up in the Great Depression of the 1930s, “When we recycled without knowing the word and wore hand-me-downs before they were fashionable.”

As a teen, she watched friends and family head off to the war while she took a summer serving job at the Edmonton Officers’ Mess at the RCAF base on Kingsway.

READ MORE: We’ve almost eliminated polio worldwide. Here’s how.

“Then came the ’50s, when as young parents we faced the polio epidemic,” said Losie.

“Through it all we learned to cope with deprivation and worry. But we were so much better off than those who grew up in Europe.”

That sense of acceptance was echoed by several seniors: that it’s easier to go along with what you can’t change.

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Look to the past

Frank Haley confirmed the spelling of his name using the military alphabet in rapid-fire fashion: “Foxtrot – Romeo – Alpha – November – Kilo….”

He said we can learn a lot from history.

READ MORE: Mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be ‘severe,’ expert warns

“Keep your faith that things are going to look up – and they are. They always do. They always have.

“The more I read about history, the more I’m impressed we as people have survived.

“I wish I could read the history of Alberta 50 years from now. My grandchildren will have stories to tell,” he added with a laugh.

Keep it light

Alexandra Munn called on superstition, “I shouldn’t say any more ’cause I’m Irish and it might not come true, but this will pass. Everybody says it.”

In all seriousness, she advised telling jokes — even a bad one that’s decades old, she said — to bring some humour to a difficult situation.

Call your mom, your grandfather, your aunts and uncles

The most consistent advice from seniors who shared their wisdom is that the pandemic will be made all the more bearable by reaching out: Call your loved ones. Do what you can to keep in touch. Check in on each other.

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Calgary seniors offer advice during COVID-19 pandemic
Calgary seniors offer advice during COVID-19 pandemic

A special thank you to all of the seniors who answered our call for video submissions, as well as the staff at Edmonton’s Canterbury Court for coordinating their Wise Words videos.