It’s been a difficult and unpredictable year, to say the least. Many of us have experienced pain and loss due to the pandemic that continues to upend life as we know it. Thankfully, history shows us that there is light ahead even in the darkest of times. Just ask a senior. Here’s some sage advice from six inspiring older adults who know a thing or two about struggle. Each has been through rough patches of life, only to emerge as strong on the other side. We hope these words of wisdom offer encouragement and hope for a bright, joyous new year.
William Stewart: From private eye to a shoulder to lean on
William (Bill) Stewart’s life started out rockier than most. Adopted at birth and raised by his grandparents during the Great Depression, he went on to have six children with his wife before she passed at the age of 51. His career spanned many areas of law enforcement and criminal justice from service as an NYPD detective to becoming a licensed private investigator. He also served his country for 30 years through the U.S. Air Force and Military Police, retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He has adjusted to life in a senior living community by doing emotional art, reaching out to help others, and supporting other seniors who may be going through a difficult time.
Stewart has learned to lean on his deep, personal faith during times of trouble. “This, too, shall pass,” is an expression he refers to whenever he experiences difficulty. He also encourages younger Americans to look outward when things become overwhelming.
“Talk with others going through difficult times,” he says. “There is strength and comfort in being in a group, knowing that we are not alone.”
Paula Anderson: Lifelong educator and encourager
Teachers hold a special responsibility in our communities, and many of them never give up their mission of equipping others. This is the case for Paula Anderson, a retired educator with 45 years of dedication behind her. As the Project Director of the Upward Bound program at Queens College, CUNY, she encountered daily challenges in helping students grow and thrive. She never lost her hope for a better future for her students.
“Reflecting on the past challenges I endured,” she shares, “I knew that everything would be alright as long as I continued to believe in God.”
Anderson’s faith was a beacon for her to stay positive during her decades as an instructor. The never-quit attitude is something she hopes to pass on to others, even in her retired life.
Anderson also believes that focusing on others is key to a life well-lived. “Through the storms in life, we must love and encourage one another,” she says. “Take time to show love and concern for the elderly, sick, disabled, little children and every other person in this world.”
Shirley Abramson: Light to the little ones
Another retired educator, Shirley Abramson, spent much of her career in a nursery school setting with the responsibility of caring for and teaching the youngest of pupils. She understands that the amount of information today can overwhelm us, and she encourages us to use discernment with any information we receive. "Depend on your intelligence. Read, listen and take advice. Use your intelligence to get you through," she stresses.
In addition to being mindful about the information we consume, she wants young people to keep a perspective about what they have and look forward. “We cannot dwell on what has happened in the past, but they must think about the present and the future,” she advises. “The past is important, but the future is worth hanging on to.”
She also recommends today’s Americans take ownership of their situation during times of trouble. “You are the captain of your own ship,” she says. “Make the best out of situations and always know that nobody will do it except for you.”
Additional advice for troubling times
We also heard from several other seniors, who shared the perspective that history repeats itself, and things get better over time. Some of the more impressive quotes include advice around helping others to keep your mind off of the bad in the world:
Barth Partch: “Give to the poor, work in soup kitchens and reach out to your elderly neighbors that might need your help.”
Margaret Jordan: "To make yourself feel good, do something for someone else — volunteer. Some of the fuzziest good feelings are when you give of yourself, and no one knows. Research shows that when we help others, our brains release the feel-good hormone throughout our bodies…. Don’t worry — be happy!”
Nick Degestaro: “Try to do a good deed. People are very appreciative if they know that you are listening.”
The Five Star Difference: Making 2022 Happy, Healthy and Stress-Free
There is power in positive thinking and change in helping others. By looking to older adults as a guide, we can find inspiration to continue on, even during the most challenging moments like those we’ve all faced this past year.
Through these troubling times, we’re more proud than ever Five Star Senior Living communities are among the safest places to live thanks to virtually 100% of team members being vaccinated against COVID-19. See if there’s a Five Star Senior Living community near you and schedule a tour to learn more about how Five Star is ensuring communities stay happy and healthy in 2022 and beyond.