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Living healthy, fulfilling lives as Americans age

(L-R) Rodrick Burton, Marylen Mann and Paul Weiss talked about how to meet the needs of aging Americans.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Rodrick Burton, Marylen Mann and Paul Weiss talked about how to meet the needs of aging Americans.

The month of May is designated as Older Americans Month. It also marks the 36th anniversary of the founding of the Oasis Institute – a local organization that aims to meet the needs of aging Americans and keep them engaged by offering learning programs, health education and volunteer opportunities.

Marylen Mann founded the organization that serves older adults aged 50 and older. But she said “aging is just a state of mind.”

She joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to talk about addressing a number of issues related to aging on Tuesday’s program. Also joining the conversation was Paul Weiss, president of Oasis Institute, and Rodrick Burton, pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, where over half of his congregation is over 60.

Weiss said among the top challenges older adults face include obesity and growing disparities in access to health services.

“… and older adults are not seen enough as resources. They’re seen as a population to be served as opposed to this tremendous resource,” Weiss said. Burton agreed and engages older adults in his ministry. Members of Burton’s congregation perform outreach activates for the church, including making phone calls, prepare food for events and speak about their life experiences.

“It keeps them very much engaged, it keeps their spirits up, they feel purpose, a sense of belonging,” Burton said. “It gives them opportunities to share their wisdom and knowledge with the younger generation.”

Through Oasis’ centers located throughout the metro St. Louis area, programs are offered to participants with a three-part approach, Mann said.

The organization focuses on intellectual stimulation in arts and humanities and technology, addresses health issues with classes on wellness and coordinates inter-generational tutoring programs in elementary schools.

“It is amazing how that one on one help not only aids children, but gives such a sense of satisfaction to the tutor/mentor,” Mann said.

Weiss added that Oasis “empowers older adults” to become instruments for social change by encouraging them to “be community health workers, tutor, teach classes … the traditional senior service model really undervalues that ability.”

Mann said engaging in social groups helps people live longer and healthier and disproves the theory that people don’t change their habits after the age of 60.

“If you put people in a group of peers who have similar issues and problems and you keep feeding them new information and options … they not only improve their health but they bond into this support group,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.