Edmonton

Edmonton senior marks 108th birthday

Born on August 6, 1912, Vera Saunders knows first hand what life was like during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. 

Vera Saunders credits her family for her long life

Vera Saunders celebrated her 108th birthday in west Edmonton on Thursday. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Born on August 6, 1912, Vera Saunders knows first hand what life was like during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. 

Living on a farm in Saskatchewan, she was only six years old when the dangerous influenza spread. Saunders, her mother and two sisters never left the farm during the pandemic. 

Her father did however and that was a constant source of consternation for the family, said Saunders' daughter, Loraine Anderton.

"She did remember they were fearful for grandpa because he was the breadwinner, and he managed the homestead, and put the food on the table," she said.

"And if grandpa went to town and got the flu and they lost him they had no one and no one to care for them."

On Thursday afternoon, friends and family gathered outside Saunders' Capital Care long-term care home in West Edmonton to celebrate her 108th birthday. 

But this celebration was very different from year's past, when everyone would come together for a big family gathering.

"There's always friends and extended family who mom's adopted, like as if they were her own," Anderton said.

"But to do it during COVID and to find a way to give her a celebration that she's so deserving of was a bit challenging, but fun.

"But it's so hard not to hug her and kiss her because she's the best hugger in the world."

Family members and friends loaded up 15 vehicles for a birthday parade outside her Lynnwood-area care home.

The people in those vehicles, included her three children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. 

It's that family connection that Saunders credits for her longevity.

"I like to be around to look after all my kids," Saunders told CBC's Edmonton AM. "I didn't do anything special for it. I didn't expect anything like this. Which I'm enjoying very much."

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