HUNTLEY, Ill. – The sun hasn’t risen yet over Sun City Huntley when Don and Marion Carbon form the line in front of the fitness center and wait for the doors to open.

At 80, Don Carbon begins each day this way, waiting in the dark to work out. Next comes Dorothy Durr and a couple of others.

“We try to bribe the girl to let us in early,” Durr said. “But it never works.”

Here amid this retirement community of 3,800 homes – with plans for another 2,000 – exercise is a lifestyle. There are two fitness centers, an indoor and outdoor pool and hourly classes – everything from a cardio jam to belly dancing, Pilates and yoga. There’s also a softball field, tennis courts and a sand volleyball area, all part of the $30 million Sun City Huntley spent on recreation amenities.

Such fitness-oriented developments for aging adults are growing around the country, experts say. Nine of the top 10 home builders now have an active-adult division, according to Builder Magazine.

The much-anticipated impact of aging Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom turn 60 next year, is fueling this new housing market, said Colin Milner, founder of the International Council on Active Aging.

“I think you will see more people going into those kinds of communities because of the lifestyle they offer as opposed to their parents, where the house was the castle,” Milner said.

Del Webb, now a division of Pulte Homes, is at the forefront of marketing to active seniors with its large complexes in the Western United States, the Huntley site and four smaller communities already built or planned in the Chicago suburbs.

The dedication to fitness has recently garnered Sun City Huntley a new honor from a source that takes aging with a sense of humor. The Chicago-based magazine GeezerJock recently named it one of the best 10 places for older athletes to stay in shape and stay competitive.

“That’s the predominant reason people live here,” said Chris Naatz, vice president of sales and marketing at Del Webb’s Illinois division. “They’re seeking so much more than a ranch home and a small building where you can play cards.”

The amenities are part of what put it on the list, along with places like Bellingham, Wash., and The Villages in Florida. Location was the other reason, said Editor Sean Callahan.

“People want to retire close to home,” Callahan said. “We wanted to point out that these communities where older athletes could come together and work out are also available in the Midwest.”

The community attracts lifelong athletes and born-again jocks like Don Carbon, who hadn’t exercised since his Army days more than 50 years ago. He was too busy running his bar and raising nine kids.

“That was my exercise,” he joked.

Now, once the fitness center doors open at 6:30 a.m., he puts in two hours walking briskly on a treadmill, climbing on a cross-trainer and flexing various muscles on high-tech strength-training machines.

Marion Carbon gets to the gym about three times a week and admires her husband’s dedication.

“I’m a little surprised,” she said. “Just before we moved out here, he started walking in the neighborhood, and he was satisfied with that. But now he’s go, go, go.”


As Carbon gets started in the gym, Otto Volkmann, 70, finishes running 6 miles on a paved path outside.

“Here’s the top geezer jock,” joked Larry Fic, 55, a retired Chicago police officer, as he patted Volkmann on the back.

Volkmann was named senior runner of the year in 2000 by the Chicago Area Runners Association.

“Now I’m running for the fun of it,” he said. “But I’m not done (competing) yet.”

Over in the indoor pool, members of the Sun City Stingrays do laps. Among the team’s dozen or so members is Caryl Fabian, 78, who last year took home six medals, including a couple of firsts, in the U.S. Masters Swimming national championships.

Fabian gives much credit to team practices. Each Saturday morning, members study swimming videos for about 10 minutes, then coach Chuck Magil, 71, a member and orthopedic surgeon, runs them through drills and interval training.

“Anybody who is bored here has themselves to blame,” said Fabian, who also plays on golf, tennis and bowling teams and recently took up tap dancing.

During the summer, bocce ball is popular, but so is the men’s softball league.

Only one thing reminded Dave Strang and the 200 other softball players of their age.

“The captain of the team has to bring the defibrillator, and it sits at the end of the bench in case one of us keels over,” he said.

So far, no one has had to use the heart-saving device, Strang said, though broken fingers are another matter.

After games, the players often go with their wives for pizza and beer.

“It was kind of like being back in high school and college with our spouses,” said Strang, 61, a minister who last year joined the “Sliders,” one of 10 league softball teams. He also broke a Sun City record in swimming this summer.


The Sun City Huntley lifestyle comes with a cost. After plunking down between $150,000 and $400,000 for a home, residents pay a $111 monthly activity fee, which covers everything from the fitness center to ceramics classes.

“Twenty-four years ago, if you wanted to work out, there was a hard-core gym and a European health spa,” Milner said. “You think of fitness centers now, and they’re in your work, your hotel, literally everywhere.”

(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): HEALTH-SENIORFITNESS

AP-NY-10-24-05 0617EDT

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