Super Senior: Gail Wheeler

Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 10:32 AM EST
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Gail Wheeler's walk from her condo to her Tai Chi class is only a half a mile, but she's been on a journey of discovery for most of her life.

She has been a special educator and an artist and traveled the world. But for over a decade her world has been a blur. "So if you dwell on the negative, it just brings you down," Wheeler said.

She has been slowly losing her eyesight because of macular degeneration. In spite of that, she remains an incredibly resilient 83-year-old.

Wheeler is the instructor of the Tai Chi class at the Saint Anthony's Parish Hall for people 55 and older. She's joined this day by her friend Louise Mailoux, who is relatively new to the class.

"Tai Chi helps me with balance, and as you loose your eyesight, you loose your balance," Wheeler said. Even going down the steps before the class can be a balancing challenge.

The class is a social event with Wheeler offering a warm greeting as members arrive. But when it begins, it turn's zen-like in a snap, with the only sound coming from the soothing music and Wheeler's gentle commands.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You said it's for balance.

Gail Wheeler: Yes.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Is it also for balance for your life?

Gail Wheeler: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Make no mistake, Wheeler wishes she could see clearly. She had to give up driving and reading. "I kind of let myself have those feelings of, 'Poor me,' and then it's 'Okay, get on with it!'" she said.

And adjust she has. Yoga stretches caused too much stress on her eyes, so Tai Chi was her next move. Her artwork, like her Tai Chi, is now free-flowing. The days of detailed drawing are long gone.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you think it's better?

Gail Wheeler: I think it's better and it flows more.

But Wheeler says even art has its challenges -- she has become color blind. "So when I look at you, basically this half of your face is gray," she said.

A Super Senior who has lost her vision, but clearly see's what's important. "Strength, humility and friendship. Above all, friendship," she tells her class. "You might as well dwell on the positive, because I like being happy I guess.