At age 69, Metcalf has decided to write the next chapter of her own life by retiring after 14 years as director of the center in the Carrollwood/Forest Hills area.
“Older adults are not the most highly regarded in our society even though they should be,” Metcalf said. “There is the stereotype of the little old lady driving along slowly, but there is also the 70-year old zipping right past. I have tried to combat that by making our programs vibrant.”
Metcalf said the center, 9704 N. Boulevard, Tampa, opened in 1980. A private, nonprofit organization, it’s one of the few senior citizen centers that is not operated by the government. It doesn’t provide meals, but has what she calls a more “academic curriculum.” Classes are offered throughout the day from 8:30 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m.
The new generation of retirees wants to stay active physically as well as mentally, she said.
“This is a time when people have an opportunity and need to experience themselves in ways they did not have time for earlier in their life,” Metcalf said. “This is their time.”
Crysta Metcalf, Ronna’s daughter, said her mom has been an inspiration to her as well as to other older folks in the community.
“My mom is my hero, my mentor, and my friend,” Crysta said. “She is always thinking of others and has contributed so much to this community both personally and professionally. She is concerned with people’s intellectual growth, health, and happiness no matter what their age, and has worked to make that a reality for 14 years at the Life Enrichment Center.”
Jayne Lisbeth, an artist and writer from Seminole Heights, said Metcalf has changed the lives of hundreds of people by promoting not only the arts but also pursuing respect for older adults.
“She took over the Life Enrichment Center when it was a daycare for the elderly,” Lisbeth said. “Ronna transformed the center into a vibrant, active, artistic center for people of all ages who could come together and take classes in tai chi, art, beginning Spanish, creative writing, low-impact aerobics, healthy recipes, knitting/crocheting, beginning and continuing classes in drawing and painting, both in watercolor and acrylic, and so much more.”
Lisbeth said Metcalf established the Forever Dance Troupe through a partnership with the Arts Council of Hillsborough County.
“Ronna has been instrumental in every aspect of the changes that have occurred over the last 14 years at the Life Enrichment Center,” Lisbeth said. “Ronna has brought more to the community of active adults and art than I can possibly say.”
Metcalf said she is proud of the dance troupe as well as the “Pages of My Life” class, currently being taught by Paula Stahel. Metcalf said stories from the class have been compiled into two anthologies used as assigned readings by the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida.
Metcalf said the class helps senior citizens explore the good and bad in their lives. They often share the stories with loved ones.
Metcalf will be retiring Dec. 31. A search committee is looking for a replacement.
“I feel rather excited about retiring,” she said. “It’s a new phase of my journey.”