Sun City Center

Alan Spector is the author of five books and is working on books six and seven. His latest is “Body Not Recovered: A Vietnam War/Protest Movement Novel.” Spector also writes the stljewishlight.com blog “Retirement According to … Alan Spector.”

By Alan Spector

We just returned from a two-plus-week Florida trip to get a break from St. Louis winter—never mind that while we were gone, temperatures at home were in the 70’s.  One of our stops on the trip was to visit friends from our years in Cincinnati who are retired and living in Sun City Center.  Their community is comprised of about 11,000 retirees, average age just over 74.

The activities and services at Sun City Center are volunteer-run.  There are over 160 special-interest clubs.  There is an emergency ambulance squad.  There are social events—for example, our friends chair a semi-annual breakfast for everyone in the community.

Here’s the issue—volunteerism is down at Sun City Center.  Those who do volunteer are involved in multiple activities.  Many older volunteers are no longer able to help.  Younger residents, those recently buying homes, are not stepping up.  That is not to say that new arrivals should immediately jump into the volunteer world; nor is it to say that they are begrudged their time to acclimate, have some fun, and figure out later where they can be helpful; nor is it to say that their volunteering means spending all day every day doing so.  

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But the obvious risk is that the clubs, community services, and social events may not be available in the future if volunteers don’t fill the voids.  The less obvious risk is that each of the 11,000 retirees in Sun City Center, from long-term resident to new arrival, is not taking advantage of bringing volunteerism into their lives.  The research is consistent—while “giving back” is important for our communities, it is equally important to individuals who want to build a fulfilling life, whether in retirement or while still working.

It has been shown time and again that those who volunteer to help others get even more out of the experience than those they are helping.  It has also been shown that the closer we are to those we are helping, the more personally satisfying it is.  In the Sun City Center example, our friends get more out of organizing the breakfast and personally seeing the enjoyment of those attending than they would if they were to write a check to support the event.  It’s important that we financially support meaningful causes, but personal involvement is the key to personal satisfaction.

Communities like Sun City Center need to promote volunteerism, for the sake of the community and for the sake of volunteers.  But wait, is this a lesson only of Sun City Center?  No, it’s a lesson for St. Louis and every community that relies on volunteers.  Perhaps more importantly, it’s a lesson for every individual who wants to build a fulfilling, meaningful life.  

Alan Spector is an author, business consultant, baseball player, traveler, and grandfather.  He has authored five published books, including, with coauthor Keith Lawrence, “Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement” (www.YourRetirementQuest.com).  Alan and Keith conduct workshops across the country helping prospective and current retirees plan the non-financial aspects of their retirement—to make the rest of their lives the best of their lives.  Alan’s latest book, “Body Not Recovered,” is a work of historical fiction from the Vietnam War/Protest Movement era, and it has deep St. Louis roots.