A Doug's Life: Do Area Seniors Know How to Have Fun? Bingo!

G 52! That's G-FIVE-TWO!

Robert Heflin picks up the ping pong ball, randomly selected by the electronic contraption in front of him, and places it in front of a mini camera. Instantly, the G 52 symbol is magnified on a large TV screen at both ends of the room. If aging ears miss his loud call over the microphone, aging eyes are able to make out that image.

If somehow they are not, there always is help.

Dora Unger will be 100 years old on Oct. 1. She was born six months after the sinking of the Titanic. Dora plays Bingo every Wednesday afternoon with more than 50 friends and neighbors in the recreation room of Menifee/Sun City Concern, a nonprofit corporation that has served area residents for nearly 40 years.

Dora takes pretty good care of herself. She enjoys chatting with friends around the Bingo table and she's never had to wear glasses. But hey, she's darn near 100 and the game can move fast. Carol Culhane, her caretaker, makes sure she knows when to mark the numbers with her large colored marker.

What's your secret to long life, Dora?

"Just live every day," she says with a smile.

Yeah, I guess that would help.

You won't get deep philosophical theories from the people here. They've been there, done that. Senior citizens who have lived in the Sun City core for years, they gather each week at this time simply to stretch their legs, exercise their vocal chords and have some fun.

Across the room, Norrene Levine is celebrating a birthday. She and her friend Barbara Truncale wear matching Bingo Queen T-shirts. Each is working on several Bingo cards at once -- with time left over to chat.

Barbara, 82, always shows up for Bingo even though she is in a wheelchair because of a leg amputation. Dial a Ride gets here there and she does the rest.

"I'm still going strong," says Barbara, smiling under her Yankees cap.

Norrene, the birthday girl, is asked how old she is today.

"Eighteen," she replies with a wink. "Old enough to drink."

OK, so she's really 81, but who's counting? Norrene, who lives in Nuevo, has been playing Bingo in Sun City since 1998, when the games were played at the Sun City Civic Association Center. Every week, she and Barbara go next door to Boston Billie's for the Bingo Special lunch, then head over to the room marked "Cooling Center" during the summer.

Although the air conditioning in the old building does provide relief from the heat, the room isn't exactly cool after being packed to capacity for a while. Diane Jerrold, office manager for Menifee/Sun City Concern, admits the AC unit can't keep up with a crowd any bigger than this.

She wishes they could accommodate more -- but in many ways, the organization does.

Each day, staff members call on shut-ins in the community to make sure they are OK. On this day, Pat Hamilton checked on a woman whose AC was out. Pat made sure she had water and a fan and convinced an AC technician to volunteer his time to fix the problem.

"So many of these seniors just stay in the area because they don't want to drive," Diane Jerrold says. "They get lonely. This organization was formed 38 years ago because seniors were dying in their homes and nobody knew until someone found the body."

Menifee/Sun City Concern offers assistance to seniors in finding caregivers. Its employees are in contact with 2,500 seniors every month. And those who work for Jerrold do it out of the goodness of their heart.

Last Christmas, because of a loss of funding, the entire office staff was laid off. Every one of them agreed to stay on as volunteers -- and are still doing so nearly eight months later.

Recently, the center added a Friday night Bingo session to its weekly calendar. Seniors pay $10 for their Bingo card and can win up to $100.

Wanda Bower and her husband Lee are regular Wednesday Bingo players, along with their daughter, Debbie. They moved to Sun City years ago after visiting Debbie, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton at the time. They fell in love with the area -- and with Bingo.

"It's good for your eyes and your mind," Wanda says. "It helps keep us going. And it's good to see old friends."

It doesn't hurt if G 52's a winner, either.

Menifee/Sun City Concern
26814 Cherry Hills Blvd., Sun City
Bingo Wednesdays at 12:45 p.m., Fridays at 5 p.m.


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