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A screen capture from a recent Oasis Zoom meeting.

Upstate Oasis to offer 37 online classes for older adults; summer registration now open

Upstate Oasis, the continuing education program for older adults, has launched an extensive slate of online classes starting May 18 to keep seniors engaged, aging well and continuing their personal growth.

It’s the first time Oasis, a national education organization sponsored locally by Upstate Medical University, has offered online classes, which are open to adults age 50 and older. Since in-person classes ended in mid-March, Oasis staff have been working to transition dozens of classes to online offerings through Zoom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Oasis staff are excited to offer older adults the opportunity to continue learning, socializing and gathering online.

“For Upstate, this is another mission-fulfilling educational outreach to the community helping seniors age well,” said Oasis Director Cynthia Woods. “It’s important to keep people engaged and living with purpose, especially now during this pandemic with increased social isolation. It’s more important now than ever.”

Starting May 18, Oasis launched 37 online summer classes with approximately another 15 scheduled to start in June, 10 in July and four slated for August. Classes include travel, history, drawing, foreign language, writing, science, fitness and more. Classes last an hour to an hour and a half, meet once or twice a week for up to 13 weeks and while some charge a fee, some are also free.

For the last several weeks, Woods and her staff have been learning Zoom themselves while conducting training sessions for instructors, many of whom have been eager to learn the platform to continue teaching. And while the transition to an entirely new way of instructing and delivering Oasis content has been challenging, it is also opening up new doors for the program, Woods said.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to get creative and allow for more innovative class options that we couldn’t have done otherwise,” Woods said, noting the potential for a cooking class where participants could obtain an ingredient list ahead of time and then follow along in their own kitchens. Another new class might be a beer or wine tasting or pairing class, which participants could take from the safety of their own homes without having to drive anywhere, she said.

To date, more than 220 people have signed up for Oasis summer classes and registration is ongoing with new classes starting throughout the summer. Upon registration, participants receive instructions via email on how to access and use the Zoom classroom. Zoom classrooms rely heavily on video so participants should have a web camera on a smartphone, computer, laptop or tablet but if that’s not possible, participating by phone only is also an option, Woods said.

Even after the pandemic ends, Oasis may continue a portion of its programming online. Online classes could be helpful for Central New Yorkers who live in the south for part of the year and for those who don’t want to travel during poor weather conditions.

Upstate’s Oasis program is also working with the National Oasis Institute, which helps coordinate Oasis programming in nine cities across the country, to eventually expand online class offerings from a variety of sites. Those classes could be offered live or taped and available when it’s convenient for the participant.

Active learning and socialization is important for everyone’s health- especially older adults, and especially during this challenging time of social distancing due to the pandemic, Woods said.

“All of this speaks to helping to decrease the social isolation related to aging in and of itself. But now with the pandemic compounding the isolation issues, this is a way for people to connect with others who share common interests and they can see others in the same situation; it eases the loneliness piece for part of their day,” Woods said. “Part of the mission of this program is to keep adults active, engaged and aging well, and Oasis online classes are another way to do exactly that.”

Visit https://upstate.oasisnet.org/ to review the catalog and register for a class.


Caption: Classes will be conducted through Zoom classrooms like the one in the photo above.