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Patient Story

94 Years Young: Bettie’s Secret to a Long Life

“You just need to stay active. I’m a firm believer in exercise for your health—anybody, not just me.”     –Bettie B.

At 94-years-old, Bettie B. lives a very active lifestyle.

She volunteers in the sewing room at Saint Luke’s North Hospital-Smithville, plays bridge twice a week, and goes to the local senior center often.

“I still live in my own house and do my own housework, even though I don’t do it as much as I should [she chuckles]— you just need to stay active,” Bettie said.

More than 20 years ago, Bettie suffered a heart attack while she was at work. At first, she thought something she ate for lunch didn’t agree with her. But after feeling pain down her left arm, she called her doctor.

That night, Bettie was still in pain. Her husband took her to a nearby emergency room, and she was quickly transported to Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City for an angioplasty and stent placement.

After completing rehab at another facility, Bettie was instructed to keep up on a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

That’s when she first came to the SHAPE Fitness Center at Saint Luke’s North Hospital-Smithville.

Twenty-three years later, she is still a devoted SHAPE Fitness member. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bettie made an effort to come to the center at least three times a week. She is now active at home and patiently awaiting the day SHAPE will safely re-open for members.

“Bettie is a staple in our SHAPE community because she’s so fit and is always bright, bubbly, and positive,” said Janelle Paulson, an exercise specialist at SHAPE Fitness Center. “People who are just starting their fitness journey or getting back into it look at her and say, wow— if she can do it, I can do it.”

Bettie exercises in style, always wearing her nice slacks and thoughtfully coordinated outfit.

But her exercise regimen is simple. She pushes herself to walk a mile on the treadmill in 20 minutes, cools down on the bicycle for 5, lifts some 2-3 pound weights, and stretches. She also enjoys participating in a moderate-level group fitness class.

However, it was not easy for Bettie at first.

“After I had that heart attack, I was just so weak I wanted to sit and not move,” Bettie said. “But you can’t do that because you’ll go downhill. I felt sure had I not kept trying, well then, I just wouldn’t be here.”

Janelle agrees. Regular exercise and longevity go hand-in-hand. Even just 20-40 minutes at a time goes a long way.

“Exercise is one of the best medicines out there,” Janelle said. “Maintaining your muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness helps metabolism, improves heart health, and prevents most major diseases. Exercise is one of the best and most cost-efficient tools available.”

Bettie’s last piece of advice for a long life? “Keep trying. Keep moving, even when it’s hard. Move a little, and the next time move a little bit more.” She refers back to a sign hanging in the SHAPE Fitness Center that reads:

"You don't stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing."

SHAPE Fitness Center encourages people to stay active and healthy at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily walks around your neighborhood provide fresh air and sunshine while allowing you to safely practice social distancing.