Photographers' Blog

Age and agility in Sun City

Sun City, Arizona

By Lucy Nicholson

During the post Second World War baby boom 76 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964. The first of them turned 65 in 2011, and as the baby boomers begin to retire, I decided to visit the original American purpose-built retirement community: Sun City, Arizona.


An 80-year-old and a 20-year-old were getting married in Sun City. A local newspaper reporter came to cover the wedding. The first question the reporter asked was: “Don’t you think the sex will lead to premature death?”

The groom replied: “If she dies, she dies.”

Fred Isenberg, 75, broke into a broad grin as he told me the punch-line of this joke during a break in a tango dancing class he was taking with his wife Suzanne, 71.

As with all good humor, the joke is loosely inspired by reality.

One hundred of the residents of Sun City, Arizona are over the age of 100, more than any other place in the world. Another 2,350 residents are over the age of 85.

Sun City was built in 1959 by entrepreneur Del Webb as America’s first active retirement community, on cotton fields west of Phoenix.

Fitness first for the First Lady

As children’s obesity has dramatically increased in recent years, Michelle Obama had made a cause out of fighting the national trend towards bad diet and too little exercise. Two years ago she launched her “Let’s Move” initiative to improve the diet and fitness of our nation.

According to “Let’s Move”, over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. “Let’s Move” states that “today, nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese. Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.”

My, how things have changed! I see it at my own kid’s schools. Students have limited recess activity and physical education classes that seem to be more about eliminating injury than actually providing exercise. On several occasions I’ve gone to the school principal and requested more exercise opportunities for the kids at school. My requests were generally accepted and appreciated. On diet, my kids have never, to my knowledge, eaten at McDonald’s. Down time…..well….we have a saying in our house….”If the sun is out, so are you.” TV and computer time is closely monitored. Am I being a whacky parent, or were there others that thought like me?

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