When asked the secret to longevity in life, Carl Booth, a resident of Evanston Summit, a Covenant Living retirement community in Calgary, claims that aside from sleep, healthy eating and the odd drink of rye here and there, the most important things are laughter and kindness.
“I think you have to laugh a lot ― laughter is the best medicine you can get,” Carl says. “I just lived life as it came along. I tried to be as good a person as [I] can.”
At 100 years old, Carl has had many years to develop this positive attitude to life. Born on a farm in Saskatchewan in 1923, he moved to Alberta with his family in his teens. In 1943, at 20 years old, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces and served in the Second World War. After the war, he settled in Edmonton, where he worked for Northern Telecom Limited for 35 years before retiring in 1984. He was married and has two children and two grandchildren.
Carl’s experiences in the Second World War have not altered the way he feels about life, says Victoria Slany, activity and volunteer co-ordinator at Evanston Summit.
“Carl is a total jokester. That’s kind of his favourite thing. [The residents] would say the same thing ― he is always joking around. He has a lot to say, which is always fun because his opinions are very entertaining.”
Carl recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and the whole community came together to help mark the milestone. The celebration started when Victoria and the Evanston Summit team put a call out to the public to send Carl birthday cards. A local news outlet published a story about the card initiative, and by the time his birthday came, Carl had received about 1,200 cards.
Carl was pleasantly surprised by the number of cards he received. “I don’t know how I’m going to read them all ― whether I’m going to live long enough to read them all!” he says.
The news story also prompted country music singer Bobby Wills to come and play at Evanston Summit for Carl’s birthday party. The event also included a Marilyn Monroe impersonator who donated her time to sing songs for him. Other donations included cakes, signs and a medallion from the Calgary Police Service commemorating his birthday.
One of the most exciting donations for Carl, a lifelong Edmonton Oilers fan, came after the manager of a Boston Pizza restaurant reached out to representatives from Molson Coors Canada. The company gave Carl and his two sons a trip to Edmonton, including accommodation and box seats at an Oilers game.
“He was up on the jumbotron and had a personalized jersey with the number 100 and his name on the back,” says Victoria. “It was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him.”
When asked what knowing Carl has taught her, Victoria has much to say.
“I really feel like [seniors] have so much to teach us if we just listen. They’ve lived amazing lives and have seen so much. For Carl, seeing life as positive is his secret. Having a happy mindset, seeing the best in everyone, it makes you realize that lightheartedness, happiness and connection are the real meaning of life.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this situation, it’s that even a small gesture can have a huge impact. Seeing everybody come together for Carl was so heartwarming, and I want to thank everyone who had even a little part in that.”