Aging gracefully


The Hollin Hall Senior Center holds monthly dances with D.J. Steve. 

At these rocking events, Red Walther makes a point to dance with all of the ladies, including those in wheelchairs.  While Walther moved around the room with one visually impaired woman, volunteer Edna Rogers watched the woman light up and realized thats how she must have looked as a young girl.

Hollin Hall Senior Center celebrated 25 years of moments like these at a ceremony Thursday.  Past members, community leaders, elected officials and the Hollin Hall Advisory Council spoke and opened a time capsule. 

What began as the Hollin Hall School in the fall of 1949 as part of a national response to the post-World War II baby boom has come into its own over the decades. By 1981, with the baby boom over, Mount Vernons population had matured and the school closed. 

The building re-opened on Jan. 31, 1983 as the Hollin Hall Senior Center.  At the time, about 35 seniors used three rooms.  Today, the center has 1,900 seniors registered and serves about 190 seniors daily in 17 rooms. 

Several founding participants from when the senior center first opened in 1983 are still involved in center activities, including Carla Convery, Beatrice Keen, Rina Olschner, Chuck Phifer and Jim White.

About 22 percent of Fort Hunts population is 62 or older, compared with 9.9 percent countywide, according to Census Bureau figures. The Census also estimates that 11.6% of the Virginia population is 65 or older.  By 2010 this population will increase by almost 26 percent.  By 2020, this population will increase by 77 percent.

The population of Alexandria is aging, as it is in the United States as a whole, Alexandria City Manager James K. Hartmann said in a recent memorandum.  The economics and education of the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) will likely affect their demand and expectation for services in the future.  They are likely to have more disposable income, may continue to be in the work force longer, have a higher education level, and may not embrace traditional retirement.

Hollin Hall Senior Center is one of 16 programs for senior adults operated by Fairfax County to service residents 55 or older.  The center offers health, wellness and fitness programs, as well as discussions on financial planning, classes on healthy cooking, arts and crafts, Tai Chi, yoga, dancing, trips and tours, and is a site for classes on Adult Continuing Education. 

One Monday bridge group is so dedicated that they pay staffers and room fees so they can continue playing on federal holidays when the building would normally be closed.  Julie Ellis, the centers director, said shes always looking for new programs.

Edna Rogers, 67, started coming to the center nine years ago to exercise after she retired. Rogers kept trying different programs and became more involved than she ever expected.  I started volunteering and continue to feel worthwhile and happy, Rogers said. I think for other people the center fills a need of a desire for a community.  We are a community within a community.  The members dont shun one another because of their agethey help them.  Its very moving.