This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Old people in Phoenix, and the breath of life of desert air


If you've ever spent much time in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you know that there are a lot of old people there. I see a plenty of of them here in the west valley, as I'm only a few miles from Sun City. And, if history is any indication, there will be a LOT more old people in the Phoenix area in the future.

And although Sun City, which was established in 1961, is the first thing most of us think about when we think of old people in Phoenix, it goes way back before that.

Time-travel with me to the days when tuberculosis was fairly common in large cities. You don't hear much about tuberculosis nowadays, but it's still around (TB has not been eradicated). In the 1800s most people would have called it "consumption". It's an infectious disease that's spread through the air. Yes, people coughing on you could give it to you. And it killed a lot of people, and it was a terrible way to die. Once you got it, there wasn't much that doctors could do for you, so many people just moved out of crowded cities and went where they could, like the desert, in the hopes that they would be able to breath easier there.

Sunnyslope, Arizona in 1946. North of the canal was considered much healthier. It certainly was drier!

Nowadays, just breathing desert air doesn't sound like much of a prescription, but for a lot of people, it was a life-saver. People came out to the Phoenix area, and lived in tents if they had to, desperate for breath, and life. And although many people died, many didn't. They got old. In fact, the man who built Camelback Inn, John C. Lincoln (yes, the man who built the hospital in Sunnyslope), lived to be 97. He came out to the desert for his wife, who had contracted tuberculosis, and she lived to be 101.

So, people have been coming out to the Phoenix area for their health, and for a long life, for over 100 years. And that means that there are a LOT of old people in Phoenix. If you live in Phoenix, take care of yourself, exercise, take your meds, and enjoy that desert air, chances are very good that you will become one of those old people!

Image at the top of this post: 1960s ad for Sun City, Arizona.



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