By Rusty Bradshaw
Despite prevailing stereotypes, active adults in the Sun Cities have proven to be resilient adopters of Internet technology, embracing social media to enhance communication and connections.
For residents and rec centers staff alike, social media sites and other online forums are transforming personal and professional interactions in the community in ways that might surprise the uninitiated.
Recreation Centers of Sun City operates its website, www.suncityaz.org, as most businesses do, to inform those it serves about news, events and amenities. Beyond the website, RCSC officials also have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, according to Maureen Edwards, RCSC clubs and activities agent.
“Links to RCSC’s social media presence are found in the Follow Us section on the footer of each web page,” she stated in an email.
The corporation’s YouTube account was previously used to share videos made about the community with residents. However, at the beginning of the year RCSC officials began filming its member/director exchange and regular board meetings and posting those to the YouTube page to allow residents a chance to follow what’s happening if they cannot attend a meeting.
RCSC’s website also includes a contact option for cardholders who want to ask questions, get information and provide feedback, Ms. Edwards stated.
RCSC officials have no statistics to indicate how many cardholders have computers at home or Internet access. But as baby boomers begin to move into the community, digital access is growing among residents. In addition, residents who do not own their own computer can access the Internet through computers at the two Maricopa County Library District branches in Sun City — Bell Recreation Center, 16820 N. 99th Ave., and Fairway Recreation Center, 10600 W. Peoria Ave.
Social media options are not limited to those offered by RCSC. Some residents of Sun City use an online message board, Talk of Sun City, www.talkofsuncity.com, to share concerns and ideas and stay abreast of what is happening close to home. There is also another Sun City Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ /groups/suncitymatters/.
In Sun City West, resident Frank Bagnato administers a Facebook page, with membership limited to those the administrator approves, that shares concerns about Recreation Centers of Sun City West operations.
Sun City resident Bill Pearson said blogs and message boards offer a chance for residents to really talk about issues and share their perspectives and ideas.
“I’ve always liked that kind of communication, because people become part of the discussion. People used to use it as an entrée into the community. I know of some that used it that way before buying their homes here,” he said.
Talk of the town
With a tagline of “Your Online Community,” Talk of Sun City is a simple message board with a home page featuring a list of active discussions that visitors can peruse. It appears to be the most active social media outlet for community debate.
The site was launched in September 2012, judging by the dates associated with the member list, which boasts more than 850 individual user registrations. Of those listed as administrators or moderators at that time, none has been active on the site since 2015.
However, activity on the message board is consistently high. On a Wednesday afternoon, 69 users were viewing the site, which listed the number of active users at 20.
Some examples of ongoing conversation threads follow.
A user identified as “pegmih” stated: “I want to have my courtyard resurfaced. It will probably be either kool deck or stain.” Another site visitor responded with a recommendation for a reputable contractor and the offer to share pictures of their work offline.
Posting as “Emily Litella,” another user suggested a way to increase attendance at the Sun City annual members meeting.
“Have the meeting immediately after one of the popular, sold out Sundial shows. Offer coffee, tea and snacks for those who stay. Have a separate area for folks who are staying to scan in and be counted,” the user stated.
Yet another user, this time identified as “Riggo,” posted a provocative musing: “Why did you (or will you) choose Sun City over Sun City West? What do you perceive as the major differences?” What follows is a thoughtful, thorough and sometimes ironic exploration of the merits of both communities, with a decidedly Sun City bent.
“Every morning I open it up just to see whatever everyone has said. I pop on a couple of times a day,” Mr. Pearson said.
One of the benefits to Talk of Sun City is it gives prospective residents a chance to see what people of Sun City are really about before they visit or go through with purchasing.
“It’s the storytellers who really sell Sun City. The more able we are to expand the number of outlets for our stories, the more able we are to reach more people. It’s good for people to see what kind of community they’re trying to move into,” Mr. Pearson said.
At least a half dozen people he knows of has frequented the message board before finally purchasing, but then stopped using the site, he said.
“Once they buy here, they tend not to come back,” he added.
Use of the message board and sites like it are an expected result of the changing demographics of the community. It is not necessarily because younger residents are more technologically savvy, but more a reflection of the difference in their attitude toward authority, Mr. Pearson explained.
“Boomers don’t trust organizational structures and they view things more suspiciously. A more open format for dialogue and discussion suits that audience better,” he said. “As the community has evolved from being self-governed to more of a top-down organization, the site allows people to share their thoughts in a more powerful way. It allows people to vent and get ideas out there that may be better.”
Editor’s Note: Matt Roy contributed to this story.