Thanks to technology, great accessibility to food and medicine, Americans are living longer than ever before. But as we all know, it’s not the number of breaths you take but the number of moments that take your breath away. If, as we’re told in Genesis 6:3, that man is granted 120 years, who doesn’t want to make the most of every day, learning new perspectives, forming new connections, experiencing vitality? This concept is at the very core of Oasis Institute in Rancho Bernardo.
This nonprofit organization is committed to providing mental, physical, and emotional stimulation for those 50 or better in the San Diego community. Membership is free, and most classes are about $15. The variety of classes is staggering and limited only by the imagination. Many are taught by experts in their field and some feature prominent celebrities! 50,000 members have discovered this gem so far, but the facility is huge and there is truly a class, lecture or fitness program to interest every single person.
Oasis has been in existence in San Diego’s Mission Valley for decades, before making a move to La Mesa. Judy Applebaum climbed aboard in time for the grand opening in Rancho Bernardo this past June and granted me a phone interview to learn more about this dynamic and all-encompassing program.
This incredible operation offers a plethora of opportunities to address every aspect of the human condition. Staffed by only three full-time, paid employees, Oasis is a volunteer-run organization. The front desk, programming and classes are all supported by enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers. Partnerships with schools, AARP, Aging Well, Thrivent, SDG&E, and Sharp Health allow Oasis to provide members with a multitude of services for free or at minimal cost.
Fitness classes are but one of the offerings, and a popular one at that. Oasis offers philosophy classes, gourmet cooking classes, classes on marketing, and retirement finances. A 500,000-foot game room with 50 tables allows for mahjong, bridge, gin rummy and so many other table games. As this fills up quickly members are encouraged to register online to reserve their space. Another lovely feature, Applebaum shared, is that if a member wants to see a class offered or teach a class s/he can fill out a form and request that this new class be put on the docket. Applebaum or a volunteer will help the member make sure that the title and description of the class will draw attendees. There is currently a member-requested Cribbage class being offered!
As you can see, Oasis differs from so many other “senior centers” in that the emphasis is on energy! Applebaum refers to a “buzz” that is ever present. She, and volunteers, often stay late or come in extra hours because the thrum of excitement and passionate vitality is contagious. Applebaum said she loves coming to work each day and the excitement is constant. If she leaves her desk for five minutes, she returns to fifteen emails from individuals offering new ideas or wanting to learn more about Oasis. She told me that she is thrilled that in this setting there is none of the “red tape” she had experienced in previous roles. She has been given a green light and loves the freedom to program whatever she wants.
As membership is growing monthly, Applebaum looks forward to an increase in the number and type of classes offered at Oasis. There are dreams of a kiln for a ceramics class, special events such as soul line dancing and exciting concerts. The center has plans to become a site for vaccination clinics, a cool zone in summer, and anticipates increased usage of their gourmet kitchen space. Currently, the voluminous space is rented for weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs and other large local gatherings. A large conference room is the perfect spot for guest speakers and lectures. Some of the space is used by the Boy Scouts and the Kiwanis Club of Rancho Bernardo to name but a few.
The space is non-denominational and clearly all religious faiths are welcomed and included. Klezmer star and UCSD professor, Yale Strom, is on the schedule as is local historian Steve Halpern. Who knows? Oasis may even get to host a Hanukkah celebration, partnering with local synagogue Ner Tamid. Applebaum is eager to share traditions so we can all educate each other and become enriched by our exchanges.
Oasis is, well… truly an oasis! This thriving center provides so much to so many in our community and plans to continue making a positive impact with a Women’s discussion group led by Michelle Shelton, an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), cardio drumming, courses in technology and software. There are classes on how to use Uber, cell phones, and how to manage Google photos. Two classes that piqued my curiosity are Senior 101 taught by Bryan Devore, and Dr. Casciani’s Living to 100 Club.
Applebaum is asked constantly when the new course catalog is coming out. While the scheduling is a massive undertaking, the goal of filling every classroom every day from 10 a.m. to 1pm fuels her devotion. Membership is free and class costs are minimal. The center relies on donations and its partnerships. This new large facility provides naming opportunities for those who’d like to leave a meaningful legacy. Each level of donation comes with benefits. Oasis welcomes you to visit the beautiful facility, sign up for a class, sign up to teach a class, or come sign a check to promote this unique center for active, curious, and engaged adults over 50. Why not come to Oasis and see what you can learn in your remaining 70 years?