Safe at Home VIII: 33573 — a tale of two cities

By JIMMY CURTIS

Jimmy Curtis

Jimmy Curtis

Eighth in a series

Zip code 33573 is a tale of two cities — the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Although both cities go by the same name, they are polar opposites. Although they have the same demographics — white, elderly, middle class — they are distinctly different.

No, I am not referring to the differences between Sun City Center and Kings Point. To my mind, there is none except those that exist in the minds of the petty and snobbish. For example, I once asked an attendant at the Sun City Center fitness center why he continually asked to see my Community Association badge even though he knew me.

“Everybody gets carded. We are just trying to keep out the riffraff from Ruskin, Wimauma, and Kings Point,” he said with a smirk. His remark left me speechless. Although the gym was almost empty, the mentality of “us against them” prevailed. Toddlers rarely share, why should we, right? We earned ours, so go get your own, pal! What did you ever do for me, huh?

The “haves” in 33573 are the beautiful people, the ones you see pictured on the Internet sites and glossy promo brochures. Playing pickleball, dancing, attending the theater, laughing with friends, enjoying the healthy, over-55 lifestyle. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “How sweet it is!”

It has been sweet for me. I came to Sun City Center 13 years ago. I can’t image a better place for me. I promoted it to all my friends and convinced several to become residents. “If you can’t be happy here, you can’t be happy anywhere,” I quipped.

Since October, when I became the primary caregiver for Mo, the 88-year-old escapee from an assisted living facility who I found lying helpless in our condo parking lot, I am learning about the “have-nots.”

The have-nots are those behind closed doors in 33573. They do not get out much. They have trouble walking, remembering, communicating and accomplishing the activities of daily living. They are the silent minority, the forgotten ones. I get the feeling there are more than I imagined — a lot more.

My exposure to “old” people in 33573 is warped. The ones I interact with are the exceptions, the freaks of nature. That’s because my life revolves around pickleball, tennis and the gym. These friends and neighbors are the ones I want to be like.

For example, my first visit in 2003 to the old shoe-box of a fitness center resulted in a benchpressing contest with Joe the Dude. He approached me and asked if he could get in a few reps on the bench. Joe was weathered, unshaven, wore a sleeveless T-shirt, dirty untied sneakers, no socks, and sunglasses. I nicknamed him the Dude because he wore his cap backwards like a kid.

We threw-up tons of weight. I dropped out when the bar got to 205 lbs. Joe the Dude pressed 210 lbs. I shook his hand, told him I enjoyed the camaraderie, and hoped to see him again. Then, I couldn’t resist.

“How old are you, Joe?”

“79.”

I went home and wrote a blog about Joe the Dude and how I lost a weight-lifting contest to a man 25 years my senior. Although Joe the Dude was a true freak of nature, he was the type of senior this junior hung with.

(There are two age brackets in 33573. The median age is 75, meaning half of its approximately 20,000 residents are under 75 and half over. Therefore, my reference to senior and junior.)

Then there was Johnny, who looked like he barely survived a Nazi concentration camp. He spotted me finishing a set of pull-ups.

“What’s your max?”

“Eight to 10,” I said.

“You want to have a contest?”

“Sure,” I laughed, waiting for the punch line. He had to be kidding.

I managed eight. Johnny hoisted his scrawny 135-lb. frame to the bar and whipped out 15.

“Pretty good for a guy 86, huh?”

“Prove it, show me your license.” Johnny couldn’t wait to whip out his ID. He looked 86 and was. I left the gym with a smile on my face and another story for my blog about life in Sun City Center.

My favorite doubles partner in tennis was Clair. He could run, jump and competed fiercely for 90 minutes several times per week. “There are 200 men and women in the Sun City Tennis Club, Clair, and only you and me can get more than two inches off the court,” I teased. The big difference: I was 62, Clair was 82.

One of my current workout buddies in Kings Point is Marshall, 77. We do a kick-butt workout class with two dozen incredibly fit women, then Marshall gets on the treadmill for an hour before yoga class. In the afternoon, I can find him at the pool looking like Jack LaLanne incarnate, flirting and hoping to get lucky with young women visiting their parents.

These are the “haves.” My venture into personal care exposed me to the “have-nots” of 33573 — incapacitated, broken souls barely able to feed and clothe themselves. Some, like Mo, fall between the cracks, while others manage through the sacrifice of friends and loved ones.

NEXT: The Have-nots of 33573.

Jimmy Curtis is registered to provide companion and homemaker services with the State of Florida, Agency for Healthcare Administration. He can be reached at jim.curtis1210@gmail.com or 813-331-3471.

 

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