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VillagesOKC aids in networking, purpose

If you are a senior citizen who enjoys where you are living, but has a desire, a need, or a want for connectedness and also who wants to give back to others, VillagesOKC offers help to remain active and maintain a productive life.
VillagesOKC is a nonprofit service for adults ages 50-plus and is funded by an annual membership fee, which helps members to continue living in their own homes but become connected and supportive of each other.

Members of VillagesOKC play pickleball at a Yukon facility. They include: Margaret Bridgwater, Carma Branscum, and Marilyn Olson.

Members, many of whom reside in the Oklahoma City metro area, are vetted by VillagesOKC, and will meet up in coffee shops, libraries, churches, community centers, homes, schools, parks and gymnasiums. Whenever there is a common interest, staff organizes connections around those interests and members develop support teams. They also offer more specific workshops.
VillagesOKC office staff help organize the connections by internet, phone and in-person. The result is the creation of a network of support and friendship.
“We are a group of adults who are not content to retire, watch TV and eat chocolate all day,” Marilyn Olson, executive director of VillagesOKC, said. “Our plan is for enabling mature adults to learn, plan and serve with spirit and dignity.”
Olson said VillagesOKC connects people who oftentimes would not have met and brings together individuals with common interests for new friendships, new skills and engages them in a meaningful way.
“Like any good neighbor, we are both members and volunteers supporting each other through the bumps in life,” Olson said.
It is networking for seniors and is not a place but instead a member-driven organization where ideas can evolve. Olson said many times members voice a need or idea, and it’s found that others are interested in the same topic, so new groups are formed.
One such topic was a “He Shed” where several men who enjoyed repairing items got together. They are now working together to serve others. One of their projects is fixing bicycles for kids, while a second project involves fixing a rototiller for a widower, so she could sell it.
VillagesOKC is very diligent, Olson said, adding that members will have trusted connections. Each member or volunteer undergoes a background check and each member and volunteer is covered with additional liability insurance.

Marilyn Lanphier, Ron Reid, Kay Reid, and Faye Horn said they had fun at the VillagesOKC First Anniversary Party in 2019.

While members have available a list of trusted professional services, they also have a variety of experiences with services and businesses in which they’ve developed trust, and they refer those to one another, according to Olson. She said this is a way to connect members with a business that is considered reputable and a member has success with.
“The point of the plan is to live active, productive lives in the home of our choosing for as long as possible,” Olson said. “We want to live to age 100 and be very cognizant and be contributing to others including our families.
A VillagesOKC offering, which specifically addresses senior needs, is a four-week interactive workshop known as The Gift, an acronym for Gathering Information for Transitions. Information from VillagesOKC states that 70% of Americans over age 65 will experience a medical- or health-related occurrence, which alters their daily routines and responsibilities.
Gift discussions, held in one-and-a-half hour sessions for the four weeks, covers expectations and coping skills to anticipate or plan for life’s events.
The Gift participants prepare a one-stop notebook, which has a listing of important documents, such as personal, legal, medicinal and real estate. Participants discuss major life changes, such as funerals, downsizing and planning ahead. A final step is for participants to have a discussion about those things with their family, Olson said.
“We provide a safe place in four weeks to document what is needed, put them in place, and prepare members to talk with family, so all are knowledgeable,” Olson said. “The goal is to have people age very well.”
Cost to participate in The Gift workshop is $199, and an introductory offer by VillagesOKC includes the VillageOKC membership, which is normally $250.
Olson said the discount is a way to introduce VillagesOKC to people in the city area.
She said The Gift and membership to VillagesOKC is not limited to Oklahoma City metro, so anyone can become a member. This, she said, includes younger people, who are caretakers for older adults.
To find out more about VillagesOKC or The Gift, call 405-990-6637, or email info@villagesokc.org.
Olson said there are many people who feel isolated because of a dwindling base of friends and family, and because of conditions created by COVID-19.
“There are so many who are really feeling lonely and this will help them connect,” Olson said.
She said the goal of VillagesOKC is to provide safe, secure networking for seniors and to provide purpose in life through service to others.

Bill Johnson and Kay Reid are pictured participating in The GIFT – Gathering Information For Transitions – at Concordia Life Plan Community.

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