OASIS history traces the organization's roots

Enriching Lives: The History of OASIS tells our story through the experiences of dozens of volunteers, staff members and participants.

Marylen Mann and a group of educators and volunteers established OASIS in 1982. It was a time when many programs for older adults were oriented around games and passive activities. OASIS pioneered stimulating educational, wellness and volunteer programs that helped older adults stay healthy and engaged within their communities.

The U. S. Administration on Aging funded a two year project to demonstrate the feasibility of a public-private partnership. OASIS established sites in four cities: St. Louis, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Cleveland, and The May Department Stores Company provided space for OASIS classes in its stores.

At the conclusion of the two year demonstration, The May Department Stores Company, now Macy's, Inc., committed to expand its support and began to build permanent sites in its stores for OASIS center. The national OASIS headquarters partnered with local sponsors in each city to support the new sites. Recognizing the importance of good health to one's quality of life, OASIS joined forces with hospitals and health providers to offer wellness programs.

Over the years, OASIS grew into a nationally recognized organization, winning dozens of awards from organizations and agencies like AARP, the U.S. Administration on Aging and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Marcia Kerz joined the organization in 2000 and became its President in 2003. In 2007 she led a team of board and staff members to develop a five year business plan to increase the impact of OASIS.

As 72 million people approach retirement over the next 20 years, Kerz says it's now the responsibility of OASIS leadership to identify new ways to meet the needs of its constituency.

"We want to increase and diversify participation in our programs, maintain program excellence, increase sustainability and ensure OASIS continues to be a leader in the field of aging," Kerz says. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to change lives. The time to act is now."