Seniors: Cultivating new experiences at Alexandria’s senior centers

Seniors: Cultivating new experiences at Alexandria’s senior centers

By Vanessa K. Greene and Anne T. Coyne

There are two senior centers in the City of Alexandria operated by the Department of Community and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services. Senior Centers offer independent seniors opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities including exercise, creative activities, field trips, music, education and information, computer classes, English as a second language, cultural activities, inter-generational activities, celebrations and fun.

Center participants also enjoy nutritious meals and spend time making friends and socializing. The centers are for individuals age 60 or older. Free transportation is provided to the centers through the Alexandria Division of Aging and Adult Services Special Transportation Unit.

The Senior Center @ Charles Houston is located inside of the Charles Houston Recreation Center and provides supportive services and resources to city residents of all cultures and nationalities age 60 and older. The center encourages seniors throughout the city to retain their independence and use their talents and experiences through participation in the center as well as community based programs.

Program activities include but are not limited to yoga, golden zumba, tai chi and arthritis exercise. Health screenings and informational presentations are done with the help of volunteer professionals. Educational and recreational activities include reminiscence and discussion groups, games, professional entertainers, movies and holiday parties.

The program is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for participants, and administrative hours extend until 4:30 p.m. For more information please call Vanessa Greene, Senior Center director, at 703-7465456 or Kiyah Tyler, operations & outreach manager, at 703-746-5834 or visit their web page,

The St. Martin de Porres Senior Center is often described by participants as their “second home,” “the place where they come to have a hot meal with their old friends and make new ones.” A place to learn and have fun at “la pequeña escuela.” Located in Alexandria’s West End, participants at the center range in age from 60 to 98.

This community welcomes all residents from the city of Alexandria, regardless of race, religion, language, national origin or culture. As one walks through the center one hears participants conversing in English, Spanish, French, Farsi, Amharic, Korean, Chinese and Arabic before the English as a Second Language classes begin. During trips, meals and activities friends laugh and share the stories of their lives and journeys in the universal language of shared experiences and friendship. Warm weather activities include growing and harvesting vegetables, herbs and flowers. Come and see for yourself that there is no longer any reason to be alone.

The mission at St. Martin de Porres is to serve seniors who want to have fun, make friends, escape isolation and hunger and learn new skills while maintaining their dignity and respect through socialization.

Activities include field trips, exercise, crafts, wellness classes, educational presentations along with spiritual enrichment and individual and group games organized around a daily hot meal. The program is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for participants, and administrative hours extend until 4:30 p.m. For more information about St. Martin de Porres programs please visit their website at or contact the center at 703-751-2766 for a tour.

Vanessa K. Greene is director of The Senior Center @ Charles Houston; Anne T. Coyne is program manager of the St. Martin de Porres Senior Center.