O.K. So, here’s the thing.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) reviewed 78,000 COVID-19 cases in China a week or so ago. Statistically, infected people less than 60 years of age had a death rate of 1.92%. Over 60, the rate was 15.6%.
I am 83. We live in Sun City West, AZ. Bordering SCW on the East is Sun City. On the Southwest, Sun City Grand. All Del Webb communities. Together, the unincorporated population is about 92,000. Since the minimum accepted age is 55-plus, an educated guess would be about 80% are over age 60. Many of us much older.
Given the results of the CDC research, you can understand why we have a lot of nervous neighbors. Why Barb and I are a bit unsettled.
One of the major draws for these senior communities is communal activities. Beautifully equipped workout facilities. Nearly a dozen Olympic-sized pools, both inside and out. Club rooms and associated equipment for about any type of activity you can think of from Artistic Hand Lettering to Zymurgy. And some 350 groups in between. If you like doing something as a craft or leisure activity, we got it in spades! Clubs, clubs, CLUBS!
The three communities also have about 18 golf courses, public and private. “Swingers” here are more into golf equipment than switching spouses. Several of the courses are open to the public, drawing people internationally. Even PGA and LPGA tourneys attracting the big names. And bucks!
We’ve got a very large, well-equipped library with the very best resources from hundreds of thousands of books to virtual reality classes. Large car clubs, metal crafting and woodworking - all fully equipped with the best tools found anywhere.
So, where am I going with this? What’s the point?
Just this. Effective immediately, everything but the golf courses have been shut down. Closed. Locked up tight. Even several churches have deserted parking lots on Sunday morn. Empty. There’ll be more. Soon. And I suspect even golf courses will close as more testing for the Coronavirus results in higher positive numbers.
COVID-19 and about 70,000 inhabitants over the age of 60 with no place to go and nothing to do. Nearly everything they came to Arizona for has been taken away - some for a few weeks - some indefinitely. Our “snowbird” clientele is particularly unhappy. Winter rents here for a 2br/2 bath go $3,000 a month - and up. Some folks with homes elsewhere are packing up.
And Cactus League Spring training for major league baseball? Dozens and dozens of games in local MLB ball parks. People from all over the country come here and pay big, big bucks for rent, entertainment, food and sitting in the sun watching favorite teams. Late February to early April. Not this year. Closed last week. Empty.
It’s strange to drive through these very active retired communities and look at the empty parking lots. Everywhere. Panic buying has come and gone so even grocery and drug stores have little foot traffic. Not even cars parked in driveways.
As senior “cities,” we’ve got the obligatory on-campus hospitals and nursing homes. Also several funeral homes and crematoriums. All busy, even on normal days. How busy - and overloaded - will they be in, say, 60 days or so?
Shopping here. From Dollar Store to Nieman-Marcus. Dozens of shopping centers. All look to this time of year for their best sales incomes. Not this year. Restaurants, theaters, performing arts and more depend on the winter influx of people with dollars to spend. Not now. And it’s gonna hurt.
If a pandemic like COVID-19 went looking for a cushy breeding ground, the old Del Webb Communities here - and in California, Nevada, Florida and elsewhere - offer some of the best. If you throw in Flagstaff, Mesa, Tucson, Prescott and a few others, there are likely several dozen similar setups for us old folk just in Arizona. Hundreds of thousands of people over the age of 60 - many in their 80's - all packed together, ripe for the pandemic of the day.
Still, people here don’t seem to be feeling sorry for themselves even as they admit to living in communities of high risk. No, there appears to be an outbreak of helping others. I’ve found several online postings looking to create daily call links to check on friends and neighbors. Heard some chatter at the grocery store of several people going door-to-door daily in their neighborhoods to knock and have brief conversations - without going inside - so those alone will have someone to talk to and won’t feel so isolated.
These Arizona senior “cities” are tough places to get acquainted. Most housing is designed for living “out back” with large patios, Arizona screened living spaces and citrus trees behind the house. People come and go through garages in front and, unless you make extra effort, you might not see the folks next door for months. You’ve also got those damned “snow birds” flitting in and out during the year.
So, even in adversity - or maybe because of it - it seems there are people deciding to reach out to help each other which makes for some good news even as we try to dodge the COVID-19 bullet.
None of these musings are meant to downplay the seriousness of this worldwide calamity. All of us - wherever we live - are being put to the test. Good Lord willing, we’ll get through to the other side.
But, if you’ll pardon me, as a “senior” senior, it often feels we’re living at “ground zero” these days. All 92,000 of us.