Talking with Joan Valdes, you’d hardly know she’s retired. The 72-year old former social worker spends her days taking classes at Oasis, doing volunteer social service work, exercising and working with groups of children during 8-week sessions of CATCH Healthy Habits at Oasis in north San Diego County.
“When I retired,” she said, “I got about a month in and was on the phone with my old boss and realized it was noon and I still wasn’t dressed yet. I decided then and there that I needed to get busy. I needed a reason to get dressed.”
Joan had only recently moved to Escondido before she retired and hadn’t gotten to know many people yet, so she was becoming isolated without the social network that comes with full-time employment. To get herself out into her new community, Joan started doing volunteer social service work to keep her skills sharp, and taking Oasis classes to get more culture and keep her mind sharp.
Around that time, Joan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. “You’re told when you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s that when you quit moving, you’re done for,” she said. So, she expanded her new routine to include regular exercise classes at Oasis and volunteering as an Oasis tutor. Over time, she found that she really enjoyed working with larger groups of children, and transitioned over to working with the CATCH Healthy Habits program.
Joan, who is so dedicated to preserving her own health, is also a foodie. She was excited to share healthy recipes and fitness tips with school children. Since 2011, she’s worked with kids from a variety of backgrounds and says its most rewarding to see the kids bring their new habits home with them. She hears from the parents of her students that they are critiquing the home cooking and sharing new tips and recipes at home.
“Oh, I love being around the kids,” she said, “but I didn’t expect what a great group of volunteers I’d have for support now that the Parkinson’s is progressing.” she said, “and it’s so nice going to the grocery store and running into people I know, like my own little community.”
Joan continues to be an active volunteer, working with Oasis and throughout her community. You may find her reading to school children by day or singing with the Tremble Clefs, a local singing group for people with Parkinson’s Disease.
If you’re looking for more to do like Joan was, Oasis provides more than 25,000 classes and numerous volunteer opportunities nationwide each year. Find a class near you or see more information on our volunteer opportunities.
Joan is featured in the 2013 Oasis Annual Report.