Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Sun City; Blue Haired Living?
This blog is about living within a senior community and the first thing I want to say is that I moved here when I was fifty-five and in nine years I've yet to see anyone with blue hair. That castigation is often given to older folks by young folks too stupid to realize that, if they're lucky, they too may grow old.
Sun City, Arizona is the first and oldest planned senior community in the United States. There are now half a dozen Sun City communities around Phoenix now but I live in the original. This one division has over 30,000 homes and consists of three Phases. Phase 1 is the oldest, with Phase 2 and 3 built at later dates, with each later phase showing greater likeness to modern homes. I live in the oldest division, Phase 1. My home is solidly built of brick with non-load bearing walls, which I'm told is a re modeler's dream since it offers greater latitude in design.
One of the great attributes for living in Sun City is that we have wide streets and generous sidewalk space, uncluttered by basketball hoops, abandoned bikes, or trash cans left out since last Thanksgiving. Street parking is restricted to short visits so residents have learned to actually use their garage for what is was designed for, unlike the typical home development where younger folks store $500 dollars worth of junk in their two or three car garage, while leaving their $40,000 dollar car out on the street. Here you will not find oil stained driveways, heavy traffic, loud motorcycles or the thunderous thump of rap music emanating from a 5 foot speaker in the trunk.
There are eleven golf courses that intersperse throughout the community and as many recreation, activity and fitness centers so that every resident is within a few blocks of a pool, a spa or exercise equipment. Each of the recreation centers serve to host hundreds of special interest clubs from computer clubs to RV clubs, to sewing, to political and ethnic clubs ad infinitum.
Weekly dances are held from everything from polka to swing to rock n roll. There are couples parties and single meets and film theaters. There are travel clubs who arrange senior sea cruises, trips to Laughlin or Vegas or bus trips to local casinos.
I'm told that Sun City seniors here represent the largest community volunteer force in the entire nation. Each morning thousands of seniors here get up and fan out to hospitals, to serve as patient guides, provide nurse assistance, to homeless shelters to prepare and serve free meals, to schools where they serve as teacher assistants and to individual homes where they care for and deliver meals to the elderly. Hundreds of Sun City seniors serve as the Maricopa County Sheriff's "posse". They do home checks for residents who are away, they write traffic tickets, direct traffic, respond to vehicle accidents, etc. The county sheriff says this "posse" saves the county more than a million dollars per year in law enforcement costs.
Anyone who drives through Sun City will readily see orange-vested volunteers who are cutting the grass in common areas, operating the irrigation systems, maintaining the thousands of citrus trees that grow here and line nearly every street in the area. When the citrus ripens it is picked and shipped off to community kitchens and to fruit processing plants in Oregon where all that fruit is used in making jellies and jam and marmalade.
Of course, Sun City is not paradise. We have our share of folks who either drive too slow, or too damned fast. We have drivers who should probably relinquish their driver's license and board one of the community vans to get around. Far too many drivers have found they and their cars parked six feet deep into a strip mall shop, shattered front glass all around them, as they lament having mistaken the gas for the brake pedal.
The average age in Sun City is supposedly 75 or so. Of course that means at least once a month you're likely to see an ambulance arrive at some house down the street, lights flashing and sirens blaring. If the resident was lucky he's transported to the excellent local hospital to be treated for a breathing problem or sudden stroke or heart attack. When not so lucky, we know, as a dozen cars appear around the house, to be possibly followed by an "estate sale" a month or so later.
Sun City is famous for their "estate sales" and every weekend the antique buyers and looky-loos and bargain hunters are seen streaming north and south, east and west, following the many estate sale signs that adorn seemingly every street corner.
Contrary to what many believe all Sun City residents pay a county property tax with the amount on par with the average property tax paid throughout the county. Our annual bill shows that we pay for county schools (although no one here has children), fire, library, police, etc. I occasionally read a letter to the local newspaper accusing Sun City residents as out of touch with the community, accuse them of paying no property taxes, label them as "children haters", etc. These letters are written by totally ignorant people. Children are allowed to live here for up to 90 days at a time to visit, but of course, not to live permanently. And we pay property taxes for schools, just as everyone else. Our thousands of community volunteers outnumber any other demographic in the county and save the county millions thorough their volunteering, which reduces school, hospital and law enforcement costs.
Since my home was built in 1961, it was built by craftsman, and not by slap shot contractors. It is built on a large lot, a good 15 foot from the neighbor's nearest wall, unlike the smallish yards and homes crammed like sardines nearly wall to wall in newer communities. I can still walk out on my patio in the morning and hear the birds sing and not the roar of local traffic. In the spring, because of the thousands of citrus trees, all of Sun City is permeated with the scent of citrus blossoms, a virtual Eden for nature lovers.
Our Neighborhood Watch really works and if we need our neighbors to meet the pool man, or water our garden, or gather in the newspapers, or keep watch over our home when we're away, we need only ask and it is graciously done.
I've also read postings and letters from young people that people here come here to die. They couldn't be more wrong. People come here to live. Most of these Sun City folks will run you young folks into the ground. While you're couch potatoeing they are out at fitness centers, or dances, or clubs, or cleaning up the common areas, playing senior softball, golfing, jogging, or manning volunteer positions in hospitals and schools and soup kitchens.
Sun City Blue Hairs? I think not!