Grand Lifestyle Travel and Culture

Peering over the Fence: Retirement in the USA – Part 1

Jane Robertson, copywriter, Grandmother, and animal lover allows us to peer over the fence (the Pacific Ocean) and gives us an insight to her retirement in the USA.

Let’s say it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon on the street where we’re standing. Why, then, isn’t it bustling with weekend activity? You see no kids drawing with sidewalk chalk, no one pushing a lawn mower, no one tending flower beds. This is a retirement community in Sun City, Arizona, USA. Each residence must be home to at least one person 55 or older but to no one younger than 19.

My husband, Tom, and I lived here for several years, in a condo on a curving street along which tall, incredibly tall, royal palms marched. His grandparents had bought the condo years earlier, and from them it had passed to his mother and then to us. We qualified only because I was old enough, since I outrank my husband in years. Most of the younger members of our family lived some distance away in cold-weather states—Wisconsin, Indiana, and Utah—so we usually saw them only during school breaks. No one seemed inclined to visit during the summers, when daytime temperatures rarely dipped below 100˚ Fahrenheit and by bedtime the metal skin of a car was still hot to the touch. In fact, many Sun City residents abandoned Arizona to spend the summers in the climates they had emigrated from. This habit earned them the nickname of “snowbirds.”


Arizona Desert. Photo: Grandparents NZ

We had year-round neighbors, of course, very pleasant ones. Most had dogs, small and, more often than not, white. People seemed to pick white cars because they reflected the intense sunlight, so maybe this applied to their pets as well? In any case, we were outliers, having moved in with a benevolent black lab named Alligator.

It was so quiet Allie almost never needed to bark. There was little traffic, the mail arrived in virtual silence, and the big event of the week was when the yard crew came by. The workers made noise blowing leaves, mowing the tiny patches of grass, and shinnying up the palms to strip away the dead fronds, which rustled as they fell.

Now and then we might see a golf cart chug by our corner. Yes, there were golf courses, but the cart’s driver might have a different destination in mind. In Sun City golf carts were street-legal, and we owned one, even though neither of us played golf.

Sun City was largely a self-contained community, with banks, churches, a drugstore, a grocery store, restaurants, and other shops. It had a recreation center with a swimming pool and even a rental counter that supplied wheelchairs and cots for guests. There were also plenty of doctor’s offices.

In short, almost everything one could ask for was available, but there were no toys forgotten on the sidewalk and no hedge to trim. It was a pleasant enough way of life, but sometimes it felt, like fast food, a bit artificial and flavorless. A job opportunity arose for Tom in California, and we decided to give it a try…

You can read more about Jane Robertson, the move to California and what happened next in Part 2 of Retirement in the USA.


Jane Robertson and some of her family. Photo: Jane Robertson

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