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OWLS brings teens out of seniors

A new social group has infused life into the 50-and-over community.

By EVE LEBERSON, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2003

NORTHDALE - There's talk of bingo, bridge games, shuffleboard and ping pong.

And plans for ceramics classes, group travel adventures, dinner shows and afternoon movies.

Some already meet weekly for tai chi.

Coming soon - computer lessons at the library.

Scarcely a month old, this club for Older, Wiser, Lively Seniors is already soaring with activities.

"It's really getting off to a good start," said Bill Castens, who organized the OWLS after hearing comments about the lack of senior activities in Northdale. Many didn't want to - or couldn't - make the 15-minute drive to the nearest seniors program on Hanley Road in Town 'N Country. So Castens responded with his own creation: a club for people 50 and over living in the northwest area. It's for people "who are lively . . . and looking for quality things to do," he said.

The group is made up mostly of retirees looking to have a good time, Castens said. "There's a lot of different things we're going to provide."

A small group of OWLS embarked Sunday on their first theater excursion to the Carrollwood Players matinee performance of A Christmas Carol. Theater attendance will likely become a regular part of the program.

OWLS member Nancy Stearns said the club is about "bringing people together, broadening horizons."

She hopes it will "draw people out and get people busy doing things. There's fun to be had after 50," she said.

Jack and Bobbie Sandler of Northdale joined the OWLS to meet new friends and visit the theater. "It will be nice going in a group with people we know," she said. "We want to be teenagers again."

The inaugural OWLS meeting in November drew 46 seniors from Northdale, Citrus Park, Lutz and Carrollwood. The roster has since grown to more than 70, and membership continues to rise. Castens said the group even has its own chant, a hoot complete with flapping arms. "As word keeps passing around, people keep calling and wanted to know about the OWLS," Castens said.

He expects to have 100 OWLS by January.

Castens plans to hold monthly meetings at Northdale Park. Though a regular day has not been set, Castens hopes to bring in speakers to discuss issues important to seniors such as nutrition, hospice and services offered by Hillsborough County.

He's also working with the Parks and Recreation Department to bring in more organized group activities. "We've talked about having aerobics, cards, bridge . . . activities we're looking at trying to have there," said spokesman John Brill. The OWLS "come up with the ideas and (the county) will see if we can find space or provide an instructor," he said.

The OWLS plan to meet at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday for a holiday luncheon at Northdale Park. Members and guests should bring something to eat or a dessert to share.

- Eve Leberson can be reached at 813 269-5302 or leberson@sptimes.com

If You Go:

What: Northdale OWLS holiday luncheon

When: 12:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Northdale Park, 15550 Spring Pine Drive

Membership: $12 annual administrative fee for nonmembers of the civic association

Contact: Bill Castens, 340-9436

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