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Retirement community stepping up to take care of each other during pandemic

Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 22:41:45-04

SUN LAKES, AZ — Twice a week at 5 o'clock in the evening, the streets around IronOaks at Sun Lakes come alive with the sound of patriot music and laughter.

Dozens of decked out golf carts can be seen zooming around the community as thousands of residents come out of their homes, to stand on the curb. They call it "curbside connections," and it is this community's way of social distancing, but making sure neighbors are alright during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karen Dimitro, the director of lifestyle and events at IronOaks at Sun Lakes said the median age in their community was 75. They had many residents who were in the "target zone of danger" with the coronavirus. It is also a community where many of these retirees are used to staying active.

From tennis to wiffleball, swimming, walking, exercise classes, game nights and concerts, Dimitro says they had to cancel many activities due to the virus, so this is their way of now staying in touch.

"We've had as many as 75 golf carts at one time, making noise and driving through our neighbors out there with flags waving and signs, it's fantastic. They're so happy when we drive by, they're all waving. I feel like their days are monotonous right now so that little spark of us driving by lifts them up, I can tell you it certainly lifts me up," said Dimitro.

She described their community as a Disneyland for adults.

Resident Diane Coughlin agreed.

"The only outlet that we really have right now is to go out and do this parade, and it's like fourth of July," said Couglin.

She added that many residents in the community had no family in Arizona, so they had become each other's second families. They would run errands for each other, and check up on each other.

"We're in a senior community where people are of different generations. Everybody shook hands back the, but some of these older gentlemen who maybe have dementia, they try to shake your hand and you can't shake their hand back, and they don't understand, it's really sad," added Coughlin.

Dimitro said the main goal was to let their neighbors know they did not have to feel isolated or scared, and that they had friends they could county on.

While Dimitro did not personally know any victims of coronavirus she was aware of someone in her community who had contracted the virus and died.

Molly Bergeson, another IronOaks resident said there were some people who were nervous; that is why human connection was extremely important at a time like this.

You can learn more about the 55-plus community at

The IronOaks community is located in towns of Chandler and Sun Lakes, Arizona. Comprised of two interconnected neighborhoods - Ironwood and Oakwood - the community is designed for active adults. It is among the most desirable retirement destinations in the Valley thanks to its combination of mature landscape, diverse amenities, and in-town location.

"I try and call people who are home on a regular basis just so they know we're thinking about them," said Bergeson. She encouraged others to do the same, no matter where they lived.