The coronavirus pandemic is taking a large toll on many people's mental health including senior citizens. However, one particular senior citizen at the Landings of Oregon wants to turn all of that negativity into positivity. He wants to start seeing people smile again.
“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow, the kind words you say today, but the recipient will remember them for a lifetime,” read Gene Wilbarger as he continued flipping pages.
Gene is taking a page out of his own book; a book that's been over 10 years in the making. The 94-year-old has been collecting quotes, words of wisdom and advice in a notebook.
As the pandemic continues and spirits are low, Gene thought his assisted living facility needed this book now more than ever. That's exactly why he started sharing it with everyone.
"The people that work here I think need a little boost once in a while, ya know, make them feel better. That's how I got started with this,” explained Gene.
Gene’s efforts to spread kindness worked.
Jamie Dale was the first staff member to see Gene’s book at the Landings of Oregon. She was overwhelmed by his sweet gestures.
"He brought down the book for everyone to share. He's brought down other things for people to look at. He wrote a wonderful letter to our staff telling us that we could get through this time and he's always available to talk, " explained Dale.
Gene's labeled his notebook "Life happens, and other unavoidable truths."
It seems rather fitting given the circumstances right now. However, the words inside are carrying some big meaning. He's sharing inspiration with nurses, other residents and just about anyone who needs a boost in their mood.
Ellen Wilbarger was not surprised to hear what her father was doing. Gene gave her her own book of inspiration when she was younger.
"That's just the way my dad has always been. I mean, he likes to make people feel better. He tries to adjust every situation and make the best of everything so that's just his way of making people smile,” said Wilbarger.
The sayings Gene shared were becoming so popular, his assisted living facility started sharing them on their Facebook page each day.
"If I can help can anybody by this, just to feel a little bit better than fine. I think that’s why God is even keeping me here,” said Gene.
Gene says he has bad days just like everyone else. The pandemic has made it hard for him to see his family. However, he tries not to dwell on it.
The 94-year-old also has a piece of advice for anyone struggling right now as well: "It's time to think about others and someday they will thank you. And maybe you can be the one to save a life. So just hang in there because better days are coming but we just don't know when.”
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.