Jacki Gethner | Matter Of Fact Approach To Aging
During my brief but memorable encounter with Jacki Gethner at a local writer's café, I was drawn to her candid style of communication. Our conversation covered a range of topics, but what stood out to me was Jacki's dedication to helping people affected by illness to become advocates for their own health.
Jacki faced the challenge of living with Hepatitis C and spent many years trying to access medical treatment. Unfortunately, her efforts were unsuccessful due to her age and state restrictions. It wasn't until she reached the age of 65 and became eligible for Medicare that she was finally able to receive the treatment she needed.
Despite the struggles with her own health, Jacki has dedicated her career to supporting and educating individuals with a wide range of health challenges. As a licensed massage therapist and Reiki Master, Jacki specializes in somatic therapy and teaches individuals skills to overcome barriers specific to their population. Her expertise has been particularly valuable in her work with the HIV/AIDS community, which was initially shunned and ignored by many.
In addition to her individual healing work, Jacki leads customized skills based workshops and retreats focused on regenerative therapies, mindfulness, and touch. Her workshops cover a range of topics, including emotional eating and caring for elderly family members. She tailors each workshop to the specific needs of the audience, creating a safe and supportive space for participants to learn and grow.
As an educator, Jacki conducted surveys on health disparities among older women, which revealed that communicating needs to doctors was one of the biggest challenges facing this population. In response, she authored the Girlfriend Guide, a practical guide empowering aging women with worksheets to fill out before doctor's visits to facilitate communication. The guide covers prevention, awareness of STDs, emotional abuse, depression, exercise, advanced directives, choices around death, and more. Jacki believes that by tuning into their bodies and mental states and navigating the medical system, individuals can make a significant impact on their own health and well-being.
It's worth noting that from 1998-2019, Jacki was a Certified Alcohol & Drug counselor, adding to her extensive qualifications and experience. Her impactful work has earned her numerous accolades and awards. In November 2009, she was presented with the Kaiser Permanente HIV/AIDS Diversity Award at their 32nd Annual Diversity Conference in San Francisco. In December 2010, Jacki was designated a HERO for her work with HIV/AIDS in the national magazine POZ. These recognitions are a testament to her unwavering dedication to improving the lives of others.
Despite her busy schedule, Jacki continues to see clients, teach arthritis focused exercise twice a week, conduct trainings, and prioritizes her weekly acupuncture self-care appointment, all while walking 5000 steps each day. Her commitment to non-profit work and dedication to helping others are truly inspirational.
Meeting Jacki was a reminder that even in the face of personal struggles, it's possible to dedicate one's life to helping others. Her work serves as an inspiration to all of us to prioritize our health and well-being and become advocates for ourselves and others.
I enjoy discovering the ways in which an individual's life experiences have shaped their perspective and contributed to their personal growth. I believe you may share this sentiment too. In each blog entry, I feature a segment known as "Wisdom Questions," where our esteemed guest imparts valuable insights gained through their journey, enriching the readers' understanding.
What are some of the most significant events you’ve witnessed over the course of your life?
- The awareness of racism in my community and in my family in the 60s.
- The hatred and disregard for the human element of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
What are some of your most important lessons and how have they influenced your life?
- Lessons can come from a variety of teachers, not necessarily where you’re looking for it.
- It’s okay to make mistakes and some of the greatest lessons come from those mistakes!
What are some of the most valuable qualities or traits you’ve developed and how have they helped you?
- Being outspoken is not a bad thing. It allows other people to learn to speak up. It allowed me to own my own truth, no matter what the other circumstances were.
What advice would you give to younger women?
- Don’t make decisions impetuously. Have someone you can always run things by. Even if you don’t go with their input, perspective is paramount.
What are some of your favorite memories or experiences and why are they so unique to you?
- Being the national recipient for the National Kaiser Permanente Diversity Award for my work in HIV/AIDS was a huge milestone. It came about due to my work in HIV/AIDS that supported the legacy of my girlfriend who died of HIV/AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic from an opioid addiction from prescription medications given 23 years before.
What advice would you give someone about maintaining a healthy mind and body as they age?
- Nothing lasts forever and we always have to be looking at other options — your old tools in your toolbox may not always work for you as you get older.
- Maintaining and establishing friendships, especially with younger people, is essential to your mental health as you age.
How have your views on life, death, and the afterlife evolved over the years?
- During my work in the world of HIV/AIDS I learned that there’s many ways that people come to the end of their life and how other people show up to that is so important. I think it’s imperative to be honest with people as they’re dying and not sugarcoat the experience or pretend it’s not going to happen. They need someone to witness them where they are and hold space.
Looking back on your life, what are some of your most meaningful experiences and why were they so important to you?
- To this day, one of my most meaningful experiences was when I went to Durban South Africa to present in 2000 at the International AIDS Conference. The inmates I’d been volunteering with at the Oregon State Penitentiary had an art show and raised $100 for our trip as a thank you for the time I’d spent with them. I also was privileged to see/hear Nelson Mandela as well as many i had "touched" through my work previously that were thriving!