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New in Pleasanton: For seniors, moving can be a big adventure

Group provides safe, fun way to explore Pleasanton, surrounding areas

When seniors Sally and Bob Leuten moved to Pleasanton last year, they didn't wait for people to come knocking on their door. Instead they threw a welcoming party of their own.

"Bob and I knocked on our neighbors' doors and handed them the invitations," Sally recalled. "We said we were the new kids on the block."

Neighbors came for wine and hors d'oeuvres from 5-7 and were pleased not to meet just the Leutens but finally to meet each other after merely waving from a distance for many years.

"One or maybe two stayed until 10 at night, they were having such a good time," Sally said with a laugh. "The next time we invited them over for coffee and breakfast nibbles."

The Leutens moved from San Mateo 14 months ago to be closer to their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, who'd recently moved to Pleasanton from Fremont. Although Sally and Bob still drive back to the Peninsula for some activities, they feel Pleasanton is now their home.

Sally is active in the Pleasanton Newcomers Club, attending its luncheons and working out with its walking groups. The other members can answer practical questions for her, she noted, such as the location of medical facilities and the best place to watch fireworks.

Bob, 72, joined the Masters Swim Team where he continues to compete nationally, and he is part of a pilots group at Livermore Airport, where he now keeps his plane.

Pleasanton Newcomers Club was also one of the first stops for Nancy Whipple when she moved here from Beaufort, N.C., two years ago with her husband to be near their son's family. She is currently serving as club president.

"I've always joined Newcomers wherever I've lived," Whipple said. "When you don't have school-aged children, it gets more difficult to meet people."

"Everyone was so warm and welcoming," she said. "They had so many groups to choose from -- I joined the book group, the lunch group, the bunco group."

She also checked out the Pleasanton Senior Center, where she now plays bridge. And she has made friends through her church.

Trish Sullivan, membership chairman of Pleasanton Newcomers, said it currently has more than 80 active members.

"I can't say enough nice things about it," Sullivan said. "Members are not a bunch of couch potatoes. We have a lot of very active people who travel a lot and do a lot of different things."

She said the best way to start is with one of the monthly coffees, which are hosted by members and draw dozens of people. Prospective members can attend two events before deciding to become a member, which costs $30 per year.

Members also meet for lunch once a month and have groups for golf, stitch and chat, a book club, several bunco groups and mahjong. A walking group gathers each Monday morning.

"Lots of times it splits into two groups -- some like to walk on flat ground, others like hills," Sullivan said. "They walk for an hour, and then sit and chitchat for an hour."

A hiking group will go out for three hours at a time, she said, often to the Pleasanton Ridge or Mount Diablo. Members also go to the horse races at Golden Gate Fields, or to see a baseball game or a movie.

"Sometimes we have gone to things on the spur of the moment," Sullivan said, using a group email. "We've gone to museums, movies, Santana Row."

"I would say most of our members are empty-nesters," she added, and mainly women join although it's technically open to everyone and all ages.

Some of the activities are geared to include men, such as the horse races, which the Leutens enjoy. For more information, visit www.pleasantonnewcomers.com.

The club also welcomes everyone to its Monday morning walks, which begin at 8:55 a.m. at Tully's coffeehouse on Main Street, to discuss the group's mission and what you can do as a member. If interested, email walks coordinator Beverly Tinges at BTinges@pacbell.net to say you are coming.

Pleasanton has another popular walking group, World Walk to Wellness, which meets every Saturday morning. It draws some new residents and quite a few people who are newly retired.

Each week participants gather at a park in town, notified of the location via a newsletter. Occasionally the group will do "art walks" that include stopping at art installations downtown, led by Pleasanton art benefactors Nancy and Gary Harrington.

Some of the weekly park walks are led by Dolores Bengtson, former parks and recreation director for the city, who is knowledgeable about natural history as well as the history of Pleasanton.

"She presents information in an entertaining way, so we not only walk 'n' talk but also we laugh 'n' learn," said Jerri Long, one of the organizers. "Our walking group provides a safe and fun way for people to explore not only Pleasanton but surrounding areas. For instance, on Aug. 18 we will be traveling to Tiburon to do a stretch of the coastal walk that surrounds the Bay."

The group plans one such adventure trip every other month in addition to its regular local Saturday morning walks. To get on the mailing list, contact walks@worldwalktowellness.org.

Some senior complexes offer enough activities that residents do not even need to leave. Radha Narayan, 62, moved to Ridge View Commons in Pleasanton in June with her husband -- after living in Boston for 30 years -- to be near their son and two grandsons, who are 12 and 15.

They point out that Ridge View Commons has everything -- a dining hall, bingo, bridge and even a hair salon. Narayan also likes having the Pleasanton Library down the street.

"We have exercise classes at Ridge View Commons and I go to that," Narayan said. "We also have classes like hydration, fire prevention, how to take medication. We joined the fall prevention class."

She also does yoga and uses an exercise bike.

"Monday to Friday, we both do exercise," she said.

Their son will stop in to enjoy Narayan's Indian cooking, and they often go to his house to play cards with their grandsons. They also have other relatives throughout the Bay Area.

"We don't get bored," Narayan said. "Everyone in my building is very nice and loving."

Margaret McGee leads a newcomers' welcome at the Pleasanton Senior Center, so she meets a lot of people who are new in town.

"A lot of people come to see what is offered at the Senior Center," she said.

They may join in activities immediately or wait awhile, and she has seen many friendships form.

"Some people are definitely involved with their churches and will make friends that way. And, of course, there are different hobbies," McGee noted.

She said the Senior Center wood shop is popular with men, although some like to pursue activities elsewhere, such as tennis or other sports. Her own husband volunteers with children and at the Museum on Main.

"I definitely recommend volunteering," McGee said. "There are all sorts of opportunities for different ages."

Sally Leuten, who worked in case management for a hospital when she lived in San Mateo, said they moved to Pleasanton to be closer to their grandchildren, but she also knows it is easier all around when aging parents live nearby. She sees this move as a chance to do and see new things.

"I feel so young and active and positive because this is an adventure -- like going to college," she said. "It gives you a new zest."

Moving tips for seniors

Older people can find it hard to tear up their roots, but being in this stage of life has its advantages in a move: Seniors usually have more leisure time to settle in and explore their new surroundings.

Many places have senior centers and clubs for any interest -- and the Internet makes them easy to find. The downside is that you don't automatically meet people at your children's schools or on their sports teams. But, on the plus side, empty-nesters don't have to worry about schools or if their children are making friends.

Here are some tips for seniors who relocate:

* Research ahead of time online to see what your new city has to offer, although this is no substitute for exploring in person. There is a difference between following a map -- even a 3-D satellite map -- and actually driving down the street.

* Speaking of maps, cell phone map apps are invaluable for finding your way around. Do a search for a certain store or type of service, and the map will instantly show all of those nearby.

* Newcomers clubs are designed for people like you, although not necessarily seniors. They can help you find people with the same interests, and they have outings to help you get to know your new area.

* Senior centers are beehives of activities, with many that can help you explore a new area.

* Check out www.MeetUp.com to find people who share your interests, including book groups, widows and widowers, photography, etc. The website will help you find groups within a certain radius. Plus, it is easy to start your own group.

* Check out the local library. They often have interesting free programs, not to mention the books and periodicals. It is a good way to check out local newspapers before you subscribe.

* Animal shelters are often looking for volunteers. This is also a good way to become acquainted with a pet you may want to adopt once you get settled.

* Volunteer. Locally, ptownlife.org lists many opportunities -- from the library and Museum on Main to urban creek restoration to parks, animal rescue and reading stories to children, ages 0-8 years, who visit the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

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