From Sanatoriums to Sun City. The Creation of ‘Active Retirement Living’ in Arizona

From Health to a Market for Active Seniors
By Paul V. Dutton

An Internet search for the term ‘Sun City’ elicits dozens of retirement communities around the world – from Florida to France to Morocco to Japan – that proudly pay homage to their Arizona ancestor. Moreover, planning innovations pioneered at Sun City, Arizona in 1960, such as placing a golf course at the community center and building hundreds of houses than open directly onto it, have been replicated thousands of times in dozens of countries. But Sun City was not just a new kind of golf resort. It represents a pivotal moment in the development of ‘active retirement living’ and the popularization of age-restricted retirement communities. Why did the sun-city phenomenon originate in Arizona? Who were the first to come? How did the residents of Sun City get along with neighboring communities? And how has the creation of ‘active retirement living’ affected our notions of aging and death? This article answers these questions through a narrative that begins in the mid nineteenth century, with the impetus for hygiene and health, and terminates in the present day through the role of real estate developers.

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