Seniors staying positive through COVID-19 pandemic

They grew up during the Depression, lived through the Second World War and came of age during a time when a person could have died from an illness that is now easily treated.

While times may have been tough growing up, four seniors at retirement homes in Kitchener and Guelph say they are now living through something they have never seen before. 

Speaking to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, all four seniors said they were doing well and were drawing on their past experiences to stay positive during the current pandemic. 

Mary Cranch

For 94-year-old Mary Cranch, life at the Westmount Retirement Residence in Kitchener is going fine.

Her morning routine consists of waking at 6:00 a.m, having breakfast and exercising “up and down the hall.” She ends her day watching Jeopardy on television before going to bed by 8:00 p.m.

Raised in Saskatchewan, Cranch travelled to Europe at the age of 18 to sing for troops at the end of the Second World War. 

“I can’t in my lifetime remember anything so terrible across the whole world,” Cranch said of the current pandemic. “We’re very fortunate here in Canada compared to all of the other countries.”

Cranch said her children tried to convince her to come live with them but she wanted to maintain a sense of independence.

Cranch said she told them, “I’m staying right here.”

Norm Jary

Former Guelph mayor Norm Jary, 90, grew up in the 1930s. When it comes to staying healthy, he says one major change between now and then is that “you don’t have to take cod liver oil anymore.”

Jary is maintaining a strict exercise regimen during stay-at-home rules.

“I lift weights every morning, walk two or three miles every day, do stretches and so on,” said Jary.

Former Guelph Mayor Norm Jary spends his time at Riverside Glen exercising daily. (Submitted by Bryce McBain)

Jary says during mealtimes, there is now only one person allowed at a table.  

“Some of the things they put in are trying to keep people from getting too close to one another,” he said. 

As well, trips outside the Village of Riverside Glenn Retirement home have been cancelled unless they are absolutely necessary. 

It’s a major change for Jary, who was one of a number of residents who had still been driving and would make regular trips into the community to have lunch with friends.

Mary Ellen Lahn

Mary Ellen Lahn, 83, lives at the Chartwell Retirement home in Kitchener. She’s sampling many different kinds of technology to stay in touch with her family and friends. 

“They phone me or usually text me. They’re trying to get me to get onto messenger, but I don’t like it,” said Lahn. 

“I like my email. The younger kids are texting. I keep in touch with everyone on Facebook.”

Lahn, a retired elementary school secretary, said Chartwell has put in place new safety measures. 

Retired elementary school secretary Mary Ellen Lahn spends her time on the phone speaking to her family. As well she also ” keeps in touch with everyone on Facebook.” (Submitted by Mary Ellen Lahn Facebook)

She said some activities are still available for residents, but fewer people have showed up to bingo and trivia games.

She and her neighbours still keep each other company through daily conversation.

“We just talk about nothing, the weather, whatever comes up,” Lahn said.

Lahn was hoping to get out to celebrate her youngest son’s wedding, but said COVID-19 has, unfortunately, led to the cancellation of the scheduled wedding plans.

Lloyd Hetherington

Lloyd Hetherington, 85, has put his faith in the workers at Riverside Glen Retirement home in Guelph.

He compares his experience to being on a cruise ship with “all the activities, good meals and a good crew.” 

Lloyd witnessed the devastation illness can cause while serving as a lieutenant colonel with the Salvation Army.

“For 11 years [my wife Margaret and] I worked on a mission station [in Zambia] and we had a leprosy colony attached to that station. There was widespread suffering at that time, for leprosy was still sort of [stigmatized],” said Hetherington.

85 year old Lloyd Hetherington says we all need “the patience and understanding, and the common sense to deal with COVID-19. (Submitted by Bryce McBain)

“Now it’s a very different situation. I’ve never seen a crisis a crisis like this before “

Hetherington credits his parents’ optimism for keeping him positive throughout his life.

“We’re going to beat this. [We] have faced crisis before. We’ll face this one and this too will pass in time,” said Hetherington.

“We just need the patience and the understanding and the common sense to deal with it.”

While times may have been tough growing up, four seniors at retirement homes in Kitchener and Guelph admit they are living through something they have never seen before.  6:15

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