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Senior Moments

Fairfax Senior Center at Green Acres attracts seniors from all over the Fairfax area.

Long before Ruby Looney was a senior citizen, she was thinking about a senior center. With other city residents, Looney was discussing the prospects of such a senior center in the 1950s. A Saturday program was offered through her church, then a Saturday program at Fairfax High School started. The program evolved into a senior center at the John C. Wood Complex in 1986.

After the city's two new elementary schools were built, the senior center moved to the Green Acres Elementary building two years ago. From there, the senior center has continued to expand.

"It took us a long time and a lot of work, but it finally paid off," said Looney, looking back over the years.

The Fairfax Senior Center at Green Acres now serves between 50 and 75 seniors a day. As a drop-in center, it receives seniors from all over the area, including Fairfax City, Falls Church, Vienna and Burke.

Activities vary from bingo and pickle ball to field trips to fire safety education. On Wednesdays and Fridays, seniors can get lunch. For special days like the Fourth of July or Fathers' Day, the center will throw a party.

"It's like a second home," said Helen Jewell, as she was playing mah-jongg. "It's a good place to get the camaraderie that we need."

FUNDED BY the city and run through the city's Parks and Recreation Department, the Senior Center attracts seniors looking to share a laugh and conversation with friends. While some seniors come infrequently, others are regulars. Some take part in the senior exercise programs at John C. Wood and head to the center later in the day.

"My goal is, if you want to get out and enjoy yourself, that's why we're here," said Senior Center coordinator Karen Bixler.

Most of the seniors who show up to the center come during the morning and participate in the activities until about lunch time. On Monday last week, a group of seniors were playing "A Day at the Races," a popular game in which Senior Center coordinator Karen Bixler rolls the dice, and different game pieces — a stuffed bear, a pig, an "old goat" and, of course, a horse — travel down a game board based on the results of the dice roll.

Next door to the race track room, nine women were playing mah-jongg.

They vociferously praised Bixler and the Senior Center and wish the city could fund Bixler full time.

"We love it. And we love Mrs. Bixler," said Ruth Paynter of Vienna. "She's indispensable and probably one of the best senior center managers around."

Fairfax City resident Louise Roddy wished she were more vocal during the city budget process.

"We feel we want Karen to work full time," Roddy said. "We really think an awful lot of Karen."

Down the hall, over 30 seniors were playing bridge. Indeed, since the Center has moved to Green Acres, the program has been able to use the additional space to spread out the daily activities and include a library and weight room.

THE MOVE was "great, because John C. Wood was a multipurpose room, and it was falling apart," Looney said.

Bixler agreed. "The facility here has just been great," she said. "We've tripled since we've been here."

The Senior Center plans to continue its programming, as well as add more extended trips out of the area. It currently goes on luncheon outings and occasional field trips to local attractions, like the Hillwood Museum and Gardens.

Several committees have also started to help develop the center's programming.

"I enjoy it here because the seniors I have gotten to know have become more like family to me, and we've gotten to be really good friends. It's like coming home," said Bixler, who has worked for the center for 14 years.