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2 Great-Grandmothers Who Lived Through Both World Wars Share Their Simple Advice for Tough Times

"Surviving a major crisis? Been there, done that… TWICE!"


For many of us, the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is the first time we’ve really gone through a global issue of this magnitude. It can easily lead to fear and panic, but two great-grandmothers in England who lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic and both world wars are reminding us that we can get through tough times like these with some kindness, optimism, and patience. 

May Willis, who just celebrated her 110th birthday in lockdown, told the Daily Mail that the key to surviving our current crisis is to “remain cheerful.” That might sound a bit too simple, but she explains, “Whatever your circumstances, you have to make the best of them and have a laugh.” Most of us could use a few more laughs right about now, that’s for sure. (Psst: We recommend looking at our gallery of cats who are fur-ious about bath time.) And that sense of humor has clearly helped her persevere, not just through turbulent times, but all the years that have led to her becoming one of the 15 oldest living residents in the United Kingdom.

Winifred Burgoyne, just a couple years Willis’ junior at 108, held up a sign at her care home that read, “Surviving a major crisis? Been there, done that… TWICE! Stay safe, be kind.” We definitely agree that acts of kindness are already going a long way, like those who are volunteering their sewing skills to make masks for hospitals and others in need. It reminds us of those who offered similar services, like darning socks for soldiers (shown in the photo at the top of this page), during World War II.

Burgoyne also shared advice about looking out for ourselves and each other. “You’ve got to keep out of other people’s way and work on your own.” She isn’t just talking about staying out of one another’s hair while a lot of us share home office spaces, but an overall awareness of doing what’s best for everyone, like social distancing. She added, “We don’t know what is going to happen next, so you have to care for yourself — and use disinfectant everywhere you go!” 

Remember: We’re all going through this together, so whatever we can do to make each day a little brighter (even if it’s just staying home to avoid spreading the virus) will help us all emerge from this mess with healthy bodies and happy minds.

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