Trudy Bryson, age 69, lives in her parent’s house. That quaint fact that conjures images of Iowa farmhouses or South Boston triple-deckers – family heritage passed through the generations. But Trudy’s family home is far from her Northbrook, IL birthplace. When this youngest of four girls came home from college almost fifty years ago, her parents had up and moved to Sun City, Arizona. They purchased the two-bedroom Sherwood model in 1968 for about $10,000 on a premium golf course lot. “This is where we came for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is our family home.”
Trudy got married and had two daughters. She lived various places, but Sun City was home base. In 2003, she and her partner Larry bought their own place here. After her parents died, they knocked out the back of her parents’ Sherwood, added a master suite and cathedral ceilinged great room.
Trudy’s sisters also retired to Sun City. The Bryson sisters are not the only second-generation residents in this active adult retirement community that began in 1960; there are even a few third generation Sun Citizens. In fact, Sun City has been around fifty-six years; long enough to live in Sun City. This milestone prompted Charles Osgood of CBS Sunday Morning to broadcast a segment that features Trudy and her sisters.
‘Active’ is the key word to life in Sun City. Trudy’s dad Tom tapped into the economic potential of so many retirees. He sold cable TV subscriptions and won awards for signing up the most customers. Organized clubs are the lifeblood of Sun City, so Tom started an electronics club and later a computer club. Trudy recalls, “He was always ahead of the curve. He had email before anyone else.” Tom also started a golf group that plays one of Sun City’s eight courses every week. Forty years later, Larry runs that same group; three of the original members still play. “I’m busier and more occupied here than I ever was working.”
Trudy is equally busy. She began the Ukeladies club and is now president of an 80-member ukulele band. Fascinated by all things ukulele; she and Larry attend ukulele events all over the country. “This is the time of life when you do what you want to do rather than what you have to do.”
Some of Trudy’s retirement activities grew out of interests she developed when she was younger. Trudy runs a marathon every ten years – that’s right, just one in ten. She ran New York at age 40 and 50. She ran Maui at age 60, and plans to run Maui again next year. “I train via The Way of the Peaceful Athlete. I start eight months in advance, add a mile a week and never run more than thirty miles per week. I know I can run Maui again.”
It’s easy to dismiss Sun City as an unrealistic fantasy, a place with no children, no schools, and lots of people with too much time on their hands. But that sells short the lessons that Sun City offers the rest of us. Sun City is more sustainable than other low-density developments; services are nearby and many people drive golf carts. There’s a strong sense of community; people watch out for each other. And it has less economic stratification than many other places. “Sun City is a place where a person with a lot of money can have a nice life. It’s also a place where you can have a nice life without a lot of money.”
Most importantly, Sun City encourages a level of active engagement that helps people live longer, healthier lives. The morning I left, Trudy was up early. She took a run around the golf course, made hearty oatmeal for breakfast and was looking forward to an afternoon ukulele fest. But before that, she’d scheduled her first her voice lesson, to improve her sing-along abilities. Any place where 69-year-old women have the confidence and energy to embark on new pursuits must be doing something right.
How will we live tomorrow?
“There are so many ways to interpret your question. It could be ‘we’, me and Larry, or my family or the Sun City community. I have such faith in this community. It will last through my lifetime, my children’s lifetime, and my grandkid’s lifetime.” – Trudy
“I think of ‘we’ as the world. I am worried about Islamic extremism and global warming. I want someone, the world, to step up.” – Larry
“I am optimistic that Islamic extremism will end. Evil people have come up through the ages. They always get squashed eventually. Other bad people will pop up, we don’t know who, but we will deal with that when it happens.” – Trudy
“I think that moderate Muslims have a responsibility to intervene.” – Larry