Helen Jusic, Silvera Diamond

16 February 2023

In recognition and celebration of our 60th anniversary, Silvera interviewed a variety of individuals to learn more about the remarkable people who make up and contribute to our organization – employees, residents, board members, donors, volunteers, and more. These individuals are true “Silvera Diamonds” – as strong and resilient as our organization over the past six decades. Thank you to each of you who help to make us what we are. Here’s to another 60 years!

Early into the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen Jusic prayed that God would help her so she could help others. The next day, she went outside, stood on the sidewalk near her home and waved at a bus. The bus driver smiled and waved back. And a movement was born.

“I just went outside every day and started waving and blowing kisses and talking to people going by,” she says. “It spread like a virus!”

The 86-year-old Bridgeland resident became an overnight sensation. Media such as the Calgary Herald, Global, CBC, CTV and even Good Morning America covered the story.

In November, Helen moved into Silvera’s Aspen community, a short walk from the home in which she lived for 36 years. Although she’s no longer able to wave daily, she still goes out from time to time when the weather is nice to greet her neighbourhood friends.

“It just makes me feel good and gives me energy to greet people driving by, walking their dogs, kids in the backseat shouting ‘Hello Helen!’” she laughs. “It’s just so nice to do something good for someone else.”

When the pandemic began, Helen, an outgoing people-lover, struggled.

“I was like a bird in a cage – I became depressed, anxious and sick. I felt lost. I would wake up in a sweat, panicking. I couldn’t sleep,” she says.

The Croatian-born Helen emigrated to Canada in 1961. She met her husband, who was also from Croatia, and they lived in Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood, building their home in 1986.

She and her husband both worked at the General Hospital for many years. When they retired, they travelled, and Helen threw herself into volunteering. She gave her time at a nursing home for more than 20 years, as well as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a rehab centre and a local school. She spent time beautifying her community, planting wildflowers in the laneway and dazzling her neighbours with her flower garden.

“I was always on the go, but when the virus came, it all stopped,” she says.

For two years, Helen spent an hour or two out on her Bridgeland street spreading joy and kindness to commuters almost every day. Passersby brought her bouquets, letters, cards, photos and gifts. In celebration of her 85th birthday, her friends, neighbours and community members bought her an easy chair to relax in.

Her kind gestures earned her a “Noble Neighbour” award from the Top 7 Over 70 in 2021, and the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association has named a garden after her.

Her personal mantra is, “A little kindness goes a long way.”

“Here in my new home, I always go to the person who gets the least attention,” she says. “I sit and visit with a different person almost every day, so we can get to know each other.”

After her husband Nezir passed away in 2004, Helen continued living in their four-level split, gardening, baking and volunteering, until her knees started to give her trouble. Finally, in November 2022, she decided to move to Silvera.

Now, she is truly an ambassador for seniors’ living. “Here, I feel like I’m living on a cruise ship!” she enthuses. “I have no worries – no property taxes, no insurance or utility bills, no need to shop. I don’t have to wait for the bus to go to the store, I don’t have to cook or shovel the walk.

“I keep thinking to myself – why didn’t I come sooner? I should’ve moved in here five years ago. I could cry with the goodness of it all.”