Retirees find fit, fitness in one place
With more than 40 percent of its population 65 or older, Seminole draws residents whose day at the mall includes dancing and walking.
By JULIANNE WU
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
[Times photos: Jim Damaske]
Retirees dance to Frank Cannon, a country karaoke singer, in Seminole Malls food court. Others take fitness walks around the mall, which is near retirement homes such as Freedom Square.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, 150 to 200 people gather at Seminole Mall's food court to hear local entertainer Frank Cannon belt out country songs and oldies to taped background music. Many come to dance.
There, moving to the beat, is a key part of the city's population: retirees.
The 2000 census showed that 4,751 of the city's 10,890 residents, or 43.6 percent, were 65 or older. Annexations since then have ballooned the city's population to about 16,000, though an updated percentage of older residents isn't available. And many more retirees live in neighboring unincorporated areas and consider themselves Seminole residents.
Although the songfests at Seminole Mall aren't the only activity in town, they certainly are a big draw for retirees from Seminole and elsewhere.
"We don't dance, but we love to watch the other people and hear Frank (Cannon) sing," said Perina Moore, 81, who moved to Seminole from upstate New York in 1985. Moore, who lives in the Costa Del Sol apartments, usually drags along her neighbor Doris Blain, 78, and a friend, Liliane Carey, 80, of Redington Beach.
"It's really nice to have everything close by," said Moore, whose home is less than a mile from the mall. "And you meet a lot of new people. To me, Seminole is like a little small-town city."
Bradley Jaggers, an employee of Charlie Cole's Auto Mall, which displays new cars in Seminole Mall, also praised the twice-weekly songfests as he watched recently.
"I think this is what holds this mall together," he said. "To watch the older folks dance is something special."
Francis Schlum and Theresa Szubartowski whirl at Seminole Mall during the afternoon dance time. The mall attracts Seminole retirees as well as their friends and retirees from nearby areas.
Although Jeannette Maynard, 74, lives in Largo, she still shops in Seminole and comes to the mall every Tuesday and Thursday. "I enjoy the music so much and I love to dance," she said. "And I really love Seminole. After all, I was a cosmetologist in Seminole for 35 years."
Arthur England, a resident of the Freedom Square retirement complex across the street from the mall, said he loves Seminole for three reasons: "It's an old saying, but it's location, location, location."
England, 84, continues to walk the mall every day for exercise and does most of his shopping there even though he could drive to other places. He will turn 85 on July 14.
"When my wife, June, (now deceased) and I first moved to Freedom Square in 1989, we wanted to be close to things," said England, a retired industrial psychologist from Detroit. "Since we have lifetime care at Freedom Square, all or most of our health needs are taken care of right on the premises.
"But, I love to be so close to the mall," he said. "How wonderful it is that I can walk to Eckerd's for my prescriptions and to Publix for my groceries. It's also good for those residents who can't drive any more. In fact, they should walk."
England, who sets up periodic historical displays in Freedom Square's lobbies, just retired as president of the resident's association board at the complex.
- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.
Communities of Seminole