Fitz column mug

David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

When my good friends Nancy and Dave moved into an independent living residence I was impressed that they had made the choice early, in good health, so they could enjoy the rich and stimulating social life awaiting them. They had so many attractive amenities at their new home I thought that it might be fun to explore my own options.

While I was checking out all the various independent and assisted living choices here in Tucson, Desert Sapphire Casino introduced an exciting innovation: The Assisted Living Casino.

The television commercial won me over. The one with the tiny old woman playing the slots, with a lit Marlboro clenched in her gnarled fist, as her animated oxygen tank smiles and winks and begins touting the virtues of Desert Sapphire’s Assisted Living Casino.

“Imagine enjoying your senior years just a wheelchair ride away from a Vegas-style casino! Granddad might be tempted to skip that nap thanks to the sinfully delightful vices that await him every night and day at Desert Sapphire’s new Assisted Living Casino. At Desert Sapphire Assisted Living Casino, Every Day is a Roll of the Dice!”

I thought their slogan was tasteless, but who was I to judge? Imagine. Enjoying your twilight years at a casino with around-the-clock elder care. The perks were undeniable.

I met the owner, Vernon Ayala Jones. “When you’re ready to cash in your chips do it with us—where the supply of chips never ends!”

Jones liked old folks. Called them “Elders.” “We should listen to our elders. They are dying. For one more shot at the slots. The last words of one of our beautiful elders, who passed just yesterday, touched me deeply. He said, ‘I lost everything at Desert Sapphire. My shirt. Pants. Wallet. Truck. Trailer. Dog. Wife. Self-respect. Soul. And I loved every minute of it. Jack my morphine, momma. Tonight is Palliative Bingo Night and I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.’ And then he was gone. He’d cashed in his chips. Hey! While you’re here why not take a shot at winning a lifetime supply of top-of-the-line catheters at our Orthopedic Roulette Wheel?”

Could I get any luckier?

In the casino I met Floor Captain Rudy Yehudi. “Every Blackjack dealer is a licensed nurse from the acclaimed Grenada School of Medicine. With all the smokers in here we use Rolls Royce-Wind Tunnel Fans to keep the nicotine circulating. You can hook your catheter into our slots and never leave. Our playing cards are gigantic. You can read them from across the casino. We have defibrillators at every craps table.”

“What about bingo?”

“Very popular. And a beautiful way to go. Sometimes bingo can generate quite a bit of excitement. So many have cardiac arrests when they win that our staff reaches for the defibrillators as soon as one of them shouts, “Bingo!” If it’s a chest-clutcher, we swing into action. There’s always plenty going on here at Desert Sapphire’s Assisted Living Casino. We always have rooms available. Just listen for sirens.”

Eighty-nine-year-old resident Bubba Gomez said, “Their slots come with disposable catheter adapters, saline lines, heart monitors, oxygen lines and audio aids. The whole enchilada. I’m playing the slots to win a lifetime supply of Lipitor. That would be about two weeks’ worth.”

At a blackjack table I met 101-year-old resident Vinnie Sanchez. “I’m here for one reason: I eat nothing but chimichangas. Deep-fried euthanasia. And I started smoking 24/7. I’m betting the house on this hand. Hit me!”

The biggest perk for the residents is the joy of frequent visits by their families. I met Mr. Sanchez’s son, who was visiting. “I like to cut the visits short with the old buzzard so the wife and I can head downstairs to gamble. Last time I won a free cremation!”

I met Mona and Manny Manitowoc, from Wisconsin, who were happily playing poker. “When we moved in we felt right at home.”

Right. If home to you is a 10,000-square-foot living room filled with slot machines, cocktail girls and poker tables.

“We got smart. We don’t have to take that crummy van to the casinos anymore because we moved into one! And our dopey kids told us to enjoy our lives. So we wiped out their entire inheritance.”

Sold, I reserved myself a spot at the Desert Ruby Assisted Living Casino, which will be built in 2024. My kids said socializing and having some harmless fun would be good for me. It’s a gamble I’m betting on.

David Fitzsimmons: