San Antonio Oasis is reshaping the lives of its members by helping them stay connected

Older adults are finding fulfillment through the many programs offered at San Antonio Oasis

San Antoino Oasis (San Antonio Oasis, 2024)

SAN ANTONIO – Walking through the doors of San Antonio Oasis usually starts with intention.

“People come in looking for something. It starts with a class, but it blooms into a connection,” said Brenda Schmachtenberger, Oasis executive director.

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Their online catalog is abundant with virtual and in-person classes with topics in wellness, arts and humanities, consumer interest, technology, outreach, day trips, walking tours and travel excursions.

Oasis promotes healthy aging, active lifestyles and opportunities to volunteer. In fact, one of the first classes many members take is the volunteer class. Participants can choose to give their time as office staff or through their tutoring or Silver Connect programs.

Silver Connect

For Beverly Scott, the Silver Connect program was what she was looking for. Her training for the program taught her how to actively listen and understand her callers.

Scott said she’s volunteered with many organizations in and around San Antonio and had been looking for something she could do at home and most importantly for her, help seniors who were sitting at home alone. She found Oasis online.

“I was actually looking for a place to volunteer. I’m a lifelong volunteer, I’ve been doing it since I was probably a second or third-grader,” Scott said.

Silver Connect is a chat line connecting older adults with trained volunteers to create positive interactions while minimizing social isolation.

“Research shows 10 minutes on the phone can change someone’s perspective,” said Kelley Gallant, Oasis program coordinator.

Gallant said the average age for the Silver Connect program participant at San Antonio Oasis is 74 years old.

“Any age can volunteer,” she said.

As it turns out, Scott’s phone conversations are as varied as the age range of her callers.

“I have a regular lady who calls me, and believe it or not, we discuss the NFL for almost 20 to 40 minutes every time she calls,” Scott said.

Communication is a two-way street allowing an exchange of information. Beverly’s enthusiasm to give support through Silver Connect offers her callers an opportunity to be heard while connecting Beverly to the community she lives in.

“I’ve learned so many things. I’ve really enjoyed it. They have so many stories to tell.”

Intergenerational Tutoring

In 2021, Gizelle Henricksen walked through the doors of Oasis after hearing about the trips they offered from a group of her friends. She signed up for a volunteering class because she likes to stay busy.

“My job was a very intense job, so I was always busy. I like to keep busy; I don’t like to sit around,” Henricksen said.

Henricksen was a teacher and school administrator for 40 years. She missed working with kids and the hustle and bustle that came with it. Following her volunteer training, she began subbing at the front desk until she saw a flyer for the Intergenerational Tutoring program and signed up.

As an Oasis Tutor, volunteers spend one hour each week with an elementary school student to help them develop their reading and language skills. Tutors may choose a participating school where they would like to tutor and then they’ll be paired up with a first, second or third-grader.

“Just seeing their smile with they come; they’re all happy to see you. The progress they make is amazing,” Henricksen said.

No teaching experience is required. If you ask Henricksen about the free training she took, she’ll tell you it was the best thing she ever did.

“The training we get from Oasis is really good, they give you a handbook, they train you on a 6-point plan that you use while you’re teaching the child. We’ll have continuing ed monthly; we go to a class and learn something new that we can use when we are tutoring,” Henricksen said.

The tutoring program is another example of the connection Oasis creates for their members. As Henricksen sees it, the program allows adults a sense of purpose while contributing to the community.

As for the children?

“They build their skills, reading and writing skills, oral language, but they also build their social emotional skills, and they have a one-to-one connection with someone, “Henricksen said.

Oasis treats her like family, it’s a place where she feels comfortable.

“I really love this place. It’s a home to me,” Henricksen said. And even though she’s retired, she’s still very much an educator; learning is something she’ll continue to advocate.

“I’ve learned a lot here. It’s important to always be learning throughout your whole life no matter how old you are, you can learn,” she said.

Becoming an Oasis Member

Estelle Zimmerman is a testament to the importance of learning throughout one’s life.

Originally from the Austin area, Zimmerman was considering Round Rock as a place to settle down. A friend suggested she look into the programs offered at Oasis before deciding where she wanted to go.

“I looked it up online and that just seemed like the program for me,” Zimmerman said.

The activities and the day trips offered were what she said she needed and knew she would love. At the young age of 91, Estelle is quick to tell anyone that Oasis is more of a community than a social group.

“It’s not a social organization people think sometimes it is. It’s educational but it’s also where you meet people who become your lifelong friends.”

Estelle said she meets most of her friends in the wine-tasting classes — a dry red is what she enjoys most. Becoming a member of Oasis has given her an incentive to take care of herself.

“I think that’s one of the most important things that Oasis does for us older people is teach us that life doesn’t end at 65, 70 or 75 or 80 or even 90. I’m determined to make it to 95 and Oasis will help me do it.”

KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union. Click here to read about other KSAT Community efforts.

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Oasis is a national non-profit organization for people aged 50 and older that promotes healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and service. In addition to tutoring, Oasis offers stimulating programs in the arts, humanities, technology and volunteer opportunities to older adults in more than 200 communities through nine educational centers and a national network of over 800 community partners.

San Antonio Oasis is supported by the San Antonio Area Foundation’s key investment area, Successful Aging.

The San Antonio Area Foundation has served as the city’s most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner for nearly 60 years growing to become one of the top 20 community foundation in the nation. The Area Foundation strives to be our region’s most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner, working to close the opportunity gap for those who need it most. The Area Foundation manages more than 500 charitable funds totaling over $1billion in assets and serves hundreds of nonprofit organizations every year – grantmaking exceeded $57 million in 2022, including more than $7.5 million in college scholarships.

About the Author

Stephanie Leonard is the Special Events Coordinator for KSAT Community. She enjoys writing and producing video and digital content.

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