Councilman Lou Waters

Even far flung folks showed up in a Sun Shuttle to share in Sun City’s celebration, dedication and ribbon cutting at its new state-of-the-art activity and fitness center this month.

It has been 10 years in the dreaming, planning, designing and building phases and hasn’t been easy. But it has emerged as a spectacular success.

There was one significant stumbling block along the way. The community took a vote on the proposal and defeated it - for all the familiar reasons: it costs too much, I don’t like the design, it’s not worth it.

But Sun City’s determination was palpable. After the vote, a committee was formed composed of five folks who voted for the defeated plan, and five who voted against.

They sat down and forged a new plan.

I had the pleasure of speaking with nearly two-hundred residents about the importance of exercise on the eve before the second vote and there was electricity in the room. These folks were going to get their project done come hell or high water.

They got it done and it’s particularly satisfying to me. In 1991 I began reporting and writing on my “aging project” as I like to call it. My very first interview was with Professor Emeritus at Stanford and former H.E.W. Secretary under LBJ, John Gardner. He was already actively engaged in what he called The Experience Corp. His concern was folks give up “too soon” on life and decline rapidly. He began by telling me, “We are witnessing changes so profound and far reaching that the mind can hardly grasp all the implications.” We’re now seeing, according to Fiscal Times, “cities transforming to meet the demands of aging. You have become a target rich demographic. Even movies are changing. Have you noticed? And, as a consequence, even the culture is changing. The World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities’ program is developing new forms of retail, education, transportation, care and housing, all designed to keep aging folks active and engaged. One line caught my eye in the Fiscal Times Report: “When Davy Jones of the Monkees died at age 66 in 2012, it was widely characterized as sad because he was so young.”

The truth is, growing old today is better than it has ever been before.

John Garner’s admonition against pessimism - about giving up too soon -  is especially important as new research has shown a negative perception of aging leads to early decline. 

The folks in Sun City have certainly chosen to accentuate the positive. 

Eighty may be the new 60, but fitness is the way to get there and Sun City gets it. It makes Oro Valley that much richer for it.


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