Born in Chattanooga, TN, Betty Browner moved to Oglethorpe County as a child where she grew up on a farm until moving to Athens in the tenth grade. Working most of her life and providing for her five boys and three girls, Ms. Browner never slowed down. Today, she’s living her life believing that “people should always love one another, pray for one another and learn to share with one another.” Here is her story on how she became a part of the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA), her life during the pandemic and how she is aging and living well in Athens, Georgia.
When did you start coming to ACCA?
When I had cancer, my children were trying to help me. They tried to tell me about how great ACCA was and how I could be social. I misunderstood and thought they were trying to put me in a nursing home! I got so upset at first, but then I came around. I talked with my doctor and he convinced me to go. The first day I went, I just had a good time! I sat at the table and all of my friends were there, my neighbors were there and some of the people I grew up with. We laugh and we go on trips, there could not be a better place for older people. I am dying to get back there [after quarantine]. When I get back there, I’m going to stay there!
This pandemic has disrupted the way of life for so many people and made it hard for some to stay connected. How have you been staying connected with family and friends?
We have been talking on the telephone. I have some family members who are sick, so we have to stay away. My daughter will come pick me up and we’ll go for a ride, get food to-go and just have fun riding. The center stays in touch with me and comes by to visit me. They’re the kind of people that love everybody.
Our neighborhood always keeps busy. We all keep our little gardens and have buckets of flowers. They say, “Ms. Browner come over and look at my flowers.” We all are busy working in our yards. They tell me when I came into the neighborhood, I got everybody doing things in their yards.
My children tried to set me up with a caregiver nurse to come out. When she came, she said “Ms. Browner, this is the first house that I have to find work to do. You’d think you could leave me a few dishes or something to clean?” I told her to just keep me company and take me to my appointments.
At this point in your life what would you say is most important to you?
Right now, it’s getting back to church. I am a Sunday school teacher, I started with primary classes then junior classes. Now I’m teaching senior classes. I sing in the women’s choir with 72 other members. Some of the choir members are still around from when my mother was in the choir. I love working with the youth in the church and the children. I have been working in the kitchen for 37 years now. I was born and raised in the church. My second priority is the center. I enjoy traveling and I love people.
What advice would you give to the younger generations today?
The best advice that I can give them right now is to learn how to pray. You’ve got to be strong, have sense and knowledge.
Have a level mind. Sit down before you say something and count “1,2…3” think before you speak. My parents always taught me to “sit back and listen.”
Read to your children as early as one month old until they are grown. We don’t read enough. I don’t know why people these days don’t read as much.
Today, we must take care of one another and be thankful for each other.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Staying busy, entertaining my church family, visiting with my church family, reading, planting my garden and keeping myself motivated. When the time comes to think about this [virus] I’m too tired to worry about it. It hasn’t even bothered me.
How do you age and live well?
You have to be happy to live, motivated to live and you can’t be alone. The most important thing in your life: do unto me as I do unto you. If I need you, come to my rescue. I you need me, I’ll come to yours.