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Social engagement: a key to successful aging

OASIS continues to meet a growing need

Author: Marcia Kerz/Monday, January 05, 2015/Categories: Volunteering, Life after 50

Every day 10,000 people turn age 65 and that trend will continue for the next 20 years. If you calculate this over 20 years, approximately 73 million adults will be 65 and older by 2030. This demographic shift will impact everything, from entertainment to environment, and housing to healthcare.
 
When OASIS first began in the early 1980s, our founder, Marylen Mann, had a vision for successful aging that was built upon enriching the lives of mature adults through intellectual stimulation, healthy lifestyles and meaningful social engagement in the community. Marylen’s vision, and the OASIS mission to promote successful aging remain crucial to our country.
 
In 2014, OASIS responded by renewing our commitment to have a broader impact in the lives of older adults. We were able to provide OASIS programs and services in 50 cities across 25 states.
 
More than 6,000 of our participants stepped up to volunteer last year. They did so because they believe in giving back of their time and talent. As a result, the experience of giving back as a volunteer is very rewarding and healthy.
 
Ray Potter (left), a tutor who has been tutoring for 17 years, shared a story about a young girl who hated math. After trying many different ways to help her, he found well-known The I Hate Mathematics! Book and gave it to her. They switched roles and she became the teacher reading from the book which turned into a great learning experience for her. Several years later, he ran into her in a high school hallway and she came up to him and told him that because of his investment in her, she now loves math! With tears in his eyes, he shared with the Board that the experience with that young girl makes every tutoring experience a gift for him.

Other volunteers took on the critical work of addressing social isolation with residents in low income housing through OASIS peer discussion groups, which, with initial funding from the AARP Foundation, were a large part of our work for the last two years.

One of the participants, Jackie, is a strong proponent of the peer discussion groups as a way of staying engaged with others. “This is the place where I can speak my mind without being judged or tested,” she explained. “That’s important to me. I feel I can open up with the rest of the group about my feelings and problems and I know that it won’t go beyond these walls.” Jackie also acknowledged that she only knew her neighbors “in passing” before the group started meeting, but now she considers them friends. “I like the size of the group, too,” she added. “It allows for some good discussion and I find I learn a lot about things I can use to better my own life.”

Through a national funding partnership with Anthem Foundation, volunteers like Ron Martin now think differently about retirement. He prefers “refirement.” At 68, Ron, a former community college instructor, has no intention of slowing down. In addition to teaching and taking OASIS classes, he’s in his third year volunteering with CATCH Healthy Habits in Los Angeles.

“I like to keep moving,” he says, encouraging kids in the program to do the same. Healthy eating is another passion. “Mr. Ron,” as his CATCH kids call him, has one rule when it comes to trying new healthy foods.

“I always ask that they try something at least once, even if it looks funny. With kids, it’s all about the way it looks. They often find out that healthy things taste pretty good.”

In looking ahead, the next 3 to 5 years will be a time of dramatic increase in the 50-plus population. As a result, we will develop a new strategic and business plan to guide us into the future. Our overall goal is to increase opportunities for people to continue to lead healthy, active, meaningful and productive lives.

This goal is exactly what Marylen envisioned all those years ago.

 

 

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