Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk

The residents of Youngtown, Ariz., took a tongue-in-cheek approach to naming their town when it was founded around 1960: the town was the first American retirement community, a phrase that LIFE magazine still put within quotation marks, when the magazine’s Paul O’Neil examined life in such towns in the May 15, 1970 issue.

By that point, Youngtown’s ideas had spread to many other places, especially in the Southwest, which was home to Sun City, Ariz. With a population of 14,000 enjoying its three golf courses and “illuminated outdoor shuffleboard courts,” Sun City was thriving. LIFE reported, seven new houses were completed each day.

One of the major draws of Sun City was that, if residents were willing to pack up and move and investing in one of the “low, white-roofed, pastel-tinted” houses in the area, they would have access to clubs and activities for every interest under the desert sun on much less than they might require elsewhere. In 1970, the price of a two-bedroom house there came in at $17,990, and some residents told LIFE that they could live there on $100 a week. As a result, LIFE found that the residents were “surprisingly varied” and included “people from relatively humble walks of life” as well as “retired physicians, engineers, lawyers and Army officers.”

As one resident told LIFE: “It doesn’t matter what you used to be. All that counts is what you do here.”

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

The mascot of the Pedal Pushers Club travelled in style.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City emphasized a not-too-strenuous outdoor life.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

As darkness descended on Sun City, residents danced away the evening hours.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sun City, retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Sun City, a retirement village in Arizona, 1970.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

More Like This

history

The Influenza Outbreak of 1957

history

Michelle Obama: Her Inspiring Story

history

Anne Frank: Her Life and Her Legacy

history

50 Years Later: A Wife’s War at Home

Ghost Towns history

Ghost Towns: The Places That Time Forgot

Westminster Thanksgiving history

World War II’s Thanksgiving in Westminster