When I began covering Sun City Center as a full-time reporter in 2003 for what was then Sunbelt Newspapers, I remember initially thinking it was simply a place for old people. But let me tell you, it wasn't long before the folks who lived here set me straight.
Yes, there's a segment of the population that's elderly and frail. But a good share of the community's 20,000 people are vibrant, active seniors who'd put me to shame on any tennis court, golf course or dance floor.
Several months ago when I began writing this column I mentioned the fact I had moved to Sun City Center last October. At the time I was looking for a home for my mom, who lived in an apartment in Orlando.
I found a really nice, fully upgraded duplex built in 1982 that was selling for a great price. I loved it, so I called her.
"It sounds nice but I don't like hardwood floors or tile," she said. "Let's keep looking."
I immediately got off the phone, talked to my partner and drove back to the duplex and bought it - for us.
At my age, I have to admit living in a retirement community - no matter how active it is - has been an adjustment.
The first thing we noticed was how often ambulances frequented the neighborhood. But we soon learned most times they were there to check on someone who'd fallen or had some minor injury. The all-volunteer Sun City Center Emergency Squad handles such calls for free. That's certainly not a service you find in most communities.
Speaking of service, Sun City Center was founded 51 years ago on the idea of volunteerism. There are scores of organizations here that operate solely on the benevolence and generosity of our residents.
Some like the Security Patrol - a highly organized, continuous neighborhood-watch-on wheels - keep residents and their properties safe.
Others provide much-needed support services. Samaritan Services, for example, offers residents free, in-town transportation, for any reason, and out-of-town transport for medical reasons; up to 50 hours of free Alzheimer's respite care; companion care and emergency financial help.
And groups like the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center and Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center donate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for charitable purposes within the community and throughout South Shore.
Such largesse is heartwarming.
But back to adjusting.
Defensive driving is a must in Sun City Center, not only because there are lots of folks with declining reflexes and eyesight driving cars, but also because of the proliferation of golf carts, an estimated 12,000 of them. Sometimes I think there are more golf carts than automobiles here. I'm telling you, they're everywhere.
The only place they're not allowed is on State Road 674 - thank God.
It was a bit unnerving at first to drive alongside them, but now they're just part of the woodwork. They're actually quite fun to drive. I'm planning to buy one when I eventually retire.
We have lots of winter snowbirds who flock to Sun City Center every year from up North. They're friends and neighbors who provide an important economic stimulus to our businesses, eateries and the county. After all, they do pay property taxes. We couldn't thrive without them.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention all the things there are to do in Sun City Center.
The community is like a super rec center, with state-of-the-art fitness centers, swimming facilities, fine arts theatres and more than 150 different clubs. From ping pong and pickleball to pinochle and pottery, there's truly something for everyone.
I'm sure you've figured by now that I'm actually glad I moved here. Sun City Center is a 55-and-older community filled with fascinating baby boomers and folks from the Greatest Generation. We have more than 20 centenarians living here. The median age is 74 but that only represents chronological age. In spirit, we're all 45.