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94-Year Old Billie McConnell Shares the Secret to Staying Mentally and Physically Sharp

At 94 years young, Ms. Billie McConnell is in the kind of shape we all hope to be at her age.  Despite some issues with her eyesight, Ms. Billie is the picture of health. Over her 94 years she has seen several doctors but few she loves as much as her internal medicine physician, Elaine Lao Campbell, DO, in the Huntersville office of Tryon Medical Partners. 

Dr. Campbell feels similarly about Ms. Billie. For the many patients Dr. Campbell sees who ask for advice on aging gracefully, Ms. Billie serves as an example of how staying active helps one stay sharp mentally. 

The Charlotte native works on her strength and balance by practicing tai chi and stability ball exercises. She rides her stationary bike an hour a day, and still drives herself around (though no longer uptown). Ms. Billie often checks in with friends who are homebound, saying that caring for others helps her as much as it helps them. After her husband passed away 14 years ago, she took care of her brother who eventually died of Alzheimer’s Disease. She also helped her daughter through a difficult time when her daughter discovered she had stage four ovarian cancer shortly after her husband was diagnosed with ALS.

Thankfully, Ms. Billie’s daughter made a full recovery and is mother to two biological children and four more who she adopted. Ms. Billie also has a son who lives in Kentucky. All in total she has six grandchildren, one biological great grandchild and five more that her granddaughter is fostering. 

“I love them all the same,” says Ms. Billie, who sees her large family often, especially for birthdays and celebrations.

She has always believed in staying active, both mentally and physically, playing bridge, mahjong and a card game, similar to Canasta, called Hand and Foot.

“I don’t like to sit around,” says Ms. Billie. “Well, I sit when I play cards but I am using my brain.”

Ms. Billie also enjoys showing others how to play her favorite games. She comes by teaching naturally, having served as a music educator in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for 27 years. She played piano as a girl and, until COVID-19, served as a church organist and choir director.

Like many in the age of COVID-19, she has been relying more and more on technology.

“I had a computer, but I was spending too much time on it, so I gave it to my daughter,” McConnell admits. “Now I spend too much time on my iPad.”

Beyond Ms. Billie’s efforts to keep herself going in body and spirit, she also stays well by having her trusted physician in Dr. Campbell who coordinates her care across multiple areas.

“I am crazy about Dr. Campbell,” Ms. Billie says, who has seen Dr. Campbell for six years.. “She has the best bedside manner and is so friendly and compassionate. Some people put on an act, but she’s not.”

Ms. Billie appreciates that even if Dr. Campbell has to send her to another specialist, Dr. Campbell follows up and, “keeps up with me.” 

Keeping up with Ms. Billie McConnell is surely a task. She’s not slowing down anytime soon.


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