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JOURNAL RECORD: GIFT workshops help mature adults prepare for transitions

By: Journal Record Staff | Feb. 3, 2021| See Full Article Here

OKLAHOMA CITY – If the pandemic has taught anything, it’s the value of being prepared for the unexpected.

An Oklahoma City not-for-profit organization, VillagesOKC, encourages mature adults to get prepared by spending time organizing and documenting their important information and wishes in a notebook. Then, if the unexpected happens, caregivers will have a “playbook” to follow.

VillagesOKC has developed a four-week interactive workshop to guide participants through 12 key areas most affected in such a transition. The Gathering Information For Transitions, or GIFT, sessions are 90-minute, small group sessions held once a week virtually and in different locations in the Oklahoma City metro.

“These workshops create personal notebooks of information to make the bumps in life a little easier,” said VillagesOKC Executive Director Marilyn Olson. Attendees receive the exclusive VillagesOKC GIFT Binders to keep.

Three workshops will be scheduled each month throughout 2021.

Workshop sessions are guided by a facilitator who provides support, encouragement and direction in a safe and confidential environment. As a bonus, registrants receive a one-year membership in VillagesOKC along with a trusted network of professionals and resources.

The locally designed workshops are in line with VillagesOKC’s mission as a “virtual neighborhood” enabling older adults to learn, plan and serve with spirit and dignity. VillagesOKC members are active and determined to live with purpose to age 100 and beyond.

VillagesOKC describes itself as “a plan, not a place.” Started three years ago in Oklahoma City, it is part of a growing national movement to help aging adults remain in homes of choice for as long as possible.

GIFT participants develop a sense of community as they work through the various sections to document their legal, medical, financial, real estate, passwords, personal preferences, emergency contacts, and much more. The GIFT workshop and notebook then become the starting point for family conversations.

Dr. Nikki Buckelew, one of the GIFT workshop facilitators, said she helps guide participants through useful discussions.

“This isn’t a fun or exciting topic, but it’s real and it’s life,” Buckelew said. “When you’re finished with it, you have an operations manual for you. Anyone who needs to assist you, can open the book and find answers to your needs and wants.”

Buckelew also moderates a free monthly Senior Living Truth seminar series designed to provide education and resources to help people live empowered lives and make informed decisions. Unfortunately, people who attend don’t always take action on what they learn.

“So, the GIFT is action.” Buckelew said. “This is something you’re going to do. This is to ensure that you do have all your ‘stuff’ together.”

She explained that going through the various sections of the GIFT binder as a group encourages conversations about circumstances and situations that participants might not think about on their own. There’s “homework” to be completed between weekly sessions, as details are unique to each person.

“I thought we had everything together for a family member that I recently had some responsibility for caregiving, and we didn’t,” Buckelew said. “There were gaps, things we didn’t think of until we needed them right at that moment. It was more than just the legal documents from the attorney or those a financial planner prepares.”

Gaylene Stiles, who retired last year as director of community health and access for Mercy hospitals, recently completed the GIFT workshops and had high praise for the sessions. Stiles spent 30 years at Mercy and was responsible for identifying under-served community needs and resources to meet those needs.

She said she worked with many nonprofits over the years and served on the boards of several. That’s how she became aware of VillagesOKC and the GIFT program.

“This is one of the things that really made me say, ‘I want to join VillagesOKC,’” she said. “Over the years, I have worked with caregivers. I’ve worked with their parents. I’ve worked with my own parents getting all that information together. I have never seen anything that was designed like this. I love it. It is a three-ring binder you can update easily.

“As you go through certain sections, you find out you’re not the only one who had this issue or that conversation,” Stiles said. “You find out, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about getting the title to the boat.’ You find details that you earlier didn’t think needed to be in there.”