‘I have a good brain’: Regina centenarian stays youthful in golden years

At almost 102 years old, Betty Johnston still heals people with homeopathic techniques and amazes them with her sharp memory. Photo By Ethan Williams

In her room at College Park Retirement Residence in Regina, Betty Johnston seems like any other resident. But talk with her and you’ll understand why she is special.

The 101-year-old (who turns 102 on Feb. 24) could be mistaken for someone much younger. She is still mentally sharp, walks mostly without aid and, most surprising, still practises homeopathy, the process of healing illnesses using natural approaches, such as acupuncture and certain foods.

Asked the secret to staying youthful, Johnston says she references an old biblical adage.

“You don’t kick against the pricks,” she said.

In other words, don’t let things bother you or they’ll just get worse.

Born in Ontario in 1918, her family moved to Saskatchewan when she was young. She was a child when she knew homeopathy was her calling.

“I remember when I was maybe 11 years old,” Johnston said. “[There was] a neighbour talking to my parents and sitting in a chair in the kitchen with an awful headache. And I remember doing this,” she said with a wave of her hand, “and taking the pain.”

But she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

“So I’m a quack,” she said, laughing.

As one of the first homeopaths in the region during a time when medicine was rapidly advancing, she worked for years in a small trailer in her farmyard near Milestone. Advertising by word of mouth, she and her husband, Bill, who has since passed on, worked long days.

“My husband would take charge of people that came in and I would have to work on I don’t know how many people in a day.”

Johnston’s techniques are unique in that she has never used technology to diagnose patients.

“I used to draw pictures of what I could see,” she said. “[Patients] would come to me and say, ‘Betty I’ve got to see a doctor tomorrow and they’re going to want to know what’s wrong with me.’ I would tell them and the next morning their doctor would then check those areas.”

She credits this for helping her excel at painting. Her works decorate the halls of her apartment and include scenes of the ocean and the Prairies.

On top of working as a homeopath for many years, Johnston also has taken up painting. Photo by Ethan Williams

Sandra Kikulwe, Health and Wellness Director at College Park, said when Johnston first moved to College Park in October she was placed on a constant assistance floor because she is partially blind. But shortly after, she was moved up to an independent floor because she was doing so well. She confirmed Johnston is still helping heal people.

“Just before Christmas she mentioned to me, ‘Let me know if anyone needs help or if anyone is not feeling well,’ ” said Kikulwe. “Funny enough there was somebody who went to visit her and she worked on this individual.”

Johnston’s grandson, Bill Kinvig, says he remembers his grandmother’s feistiness when he was young.

“She was the boss lady,” he said. “She was capable of doing anything. She didn’t rely on anybody really.”

Kinvig isn’t surprised by her longevity. He says she followed her homeopathic practices, ate healthy and never smoked.

He says people are impressed with how sharp she has stayed. Johnston says her sharpness is the result of one thing:

“I have a good brain,” she said. “And I used it.”

Kikulwe says residents have taken notice of Johnston’s youthfulness.

“I overheard a conversation recently where one of the residents . . . said [to Johnston] ‘When I grow up I want to be like you.’ ”

Johnston’s family will be coming together for her birthday in February. Kikulwe hinted at a larger celebration at College Park, but says no formal plans are in place yet.

Johnston has advice for younger people, especially those who want to get into the medical profession:

“Take all the advice you can get.”

Sandra Kikulwe, Health and Wellness Director at College Park, said when Johnston moved to College Park in October she was placed on a constant assistance floor because she is partially blind. But shortly after, she was moved to an independent floor because she was doing so well. She confirmed Johnston is still healing people.

“Just before Christmas she mentioned to me, ‘Let me know if anyone needs help,’ ” said Kikulwe. “Funny enough there was somebody who went to visit her and she worked on this individual.”

Johnston’s grandson, Bill Kinvig, says he remembers his grandmother’s feistiness when he was young.

“She was the boss lady,” he said. “She was capable of doing anything.”

Kinvig isn’t surprised by Johnston’s longevity. He says she followed her homeopathic practices, ate healthy and never smoked.

He says people are impressed with how sharp she is. Johnston says her sharpness is the result of one thing:

“I have a good brain,” she said. “And I used it.”

Not only is her brain still good, but she is still physically well. She even went as far as quickly getting up out of her chair a few times to prove she’s still quick.

Kikulwe says residents have taken notice of Johnston’s youthfulness.

“I overheard a conversation recently where one of the residents . . . said [to Johnston] ‘When I grow up I want to be like you.’ ”

Johnston’s family is coming together for her birthday in February. Kikulwe hinted at a celebration at College Park, but says no formal plans are in place yet.

A life-long learner, Johnston’s advice for today’s youth is simple.

“Take all the advice you can get.”

 

 

 

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