Shortly after Len Trahan retired seven years ago, he suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk and inhibited his ability to function on the left side of his body.
As a then-66-year-old former U.S. Army officer, Trahan remained active by playing golf, swimming, and volunteering at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, a lifestyle that could have been curtailed by the effects of the stroke.
Then, he found Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care, one of four Fairfax County-owned facilities that provide memory care, health monitoring, meals, leisure activities, and other services to adults with dementia and other physical or intellectual disabilities.
While he can no longer participate in some sports the way he used to, Trahan says the program has become a “significant part” of his life, letting him take part in wellness exercises, art and music therapy, and even discussions about history and the news with fellow clients.
Now, more people will be able to take advantage of adult day health care after Fairfax County officially opened a renovated and expanded Lewinsville Center in McLean with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on June 1.
“The adult day health care program here at Lewinsville has helped us to rescript our lives,” Trahan’s wife, Pat Trahan, said. “…What a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility this is. It is absolutely wonderful, and it is so, so important to people like us.”
Situated on Great Falls Road next door to an independent living residential complex for seniors that opened this past October, the Lewinsville Center is home to the Lewinsville Senior Center, Westgate Child Center, and the Lewinsville Montessori School along with Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care.
The path to the new Lewinsville Center was not always an easy one.
The site that the center now occupies once belonged to an elementary school until the Fairfax County School Board transferred the property to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 1985, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
A special exception approved by the county in 1994 paved the way for the old school building to be reworked into the original Lewinsville Center, which contained a 22-bed independent living facility, a senior center, an adult daycare center, and two childcare centers.
Given the building’s aging infrastructure and limited amount of space, the need for a new, larger facility quickly became apparent, so Fairfax County amended its special exception in 2004 to develop a new center that would add 60 units of assisted living on top of the existing uses.
However, due to financial challenges, it was only in 2012 when the county shifted its plans to a possible public-private partnership with independent living residences in place of assisted living that the project started to make progress.
The nonprofit Wesley Housing Development Corporation won a solicitation bid to build 82 rental, independent-living units for people 62 years of age and older with a household income at or below 50 percent of the area median income.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive agreement in March 2015 to demolish the existing center and redevelop it in partnership with Wesley Hamel Lewinsville LLC, which agreed to construct the independent living residences at no cost to the county.
Foust says the total cost of the project for the county was around $16 million.
“What I’m most excited about is we now have an awesome, multigenerational campus right here in McLean, a campus that’s going to bring seniors together with children in a caring, safe, and very attractive environment,” Foust said. “That’s just a wonderful thing.”
Housing and other facilities for seniors are becoming especially critical as Fairfax County’s older population increases.
According to U.S. Census and Fairfax County data, adults 65 and older have gone from 9.8 percent of the county’s general population in 2010 to 13.1 percent in 2018. That will continue to climb with the county projecting that 17.7 percent, or almost one-fifth, of its population will be 65 or older by 2035.
Because they often have low or fixed incomes, households with at least one person who is 75 or older represent the county’s second greatest need for affordable housing, after small families and single adults, according to the Fairfax County Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan published in June 2018.
While the availability of housing is a major concern, facilities like the Lewinsville Senior Center and Adult Day Health Care also serve an important role in helping the county’s older populace stay connected to a broader community, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services Director Chris Leonard says.
Doubling its capacity from 40 participants to 80 to 90, the new senior center features a café and game lounge, art and exercise rooms, pool and ping-pong tables, and a commercial kitchen for cooking and nutrition classes.
The senior center offers a variety of activities, from yoga and line dancing to language classes and even shopping trips. A low-impact aerobics class held shortly after the center had a soft opening a couple of weeks before its grand opening attracted about 20 adults.
“I think just really foreshadows great things to come when folks become aware of the facilities here,” Leonard said.
Run by the Fairfax County Health Department, Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care currently has about 30 daily participants with a fluctuating waiting list, though the facility is licensed for up to 54 people.
In addition to providing more space, the renovated Lewinsville Center was carefully designed with input from the adult day health care staff to ensure that the building would accommodate the needs of the population they serve, according to Department of Health marketing specialist Allyson Pearce.
For instance, a walking hall for participants to pace if needed features a handrail and chairs so that they can have support or take a break, and a planned sensory garden outside has elevated planters, including one that is wheelchair-friendly, to save people from having to bend over to take care of a plant.
“The attention to detail that our team of nurses put into the design of the center to ensure that the needs of the folks who use this service are exceeded…it’s amazing to me,” Pearce said. “Every little thing was thought out.”
The organizations in the Lewinsville Center have already started to work together to take advantage of their shared building.
The Westgate Child Center, for example, is holding karate and ballet classes in the adult day health care’s library.
Boasting about 100 participants and 21 staff members, Westgate is a day care with preschool, pre-kindergarten, before and after school, and summer programs for toddlers through 12-year-old children.
Center Director Kimberly Holmes joined Westgate about 18 months ago, but she says she heard that the old Lewinsville Center building was run-down to the point where it would flood when there was rain.
The day care’s staff was thrilled to move into the new building on May 22 after spending about two years in trailers while the facility was under construction.
“Moving in here has been great. The children love it,” Holmes said. “It’s bright and cheery, and it’s everything that a child care could want.”
For Lewinsville Montessori School director of operations Elizabeth Garcia, the redeveloped Lewinsville Center’s grand opening felt like a victory that she had been waiting 23 years to see.
Garcia says the new center has not increased the school’s enrollment, which currently is around 89 children up to 5 years old, but the teaching environment is a clear improvement over the old building, which encountered plumbing and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning issues.
“All the classrooms are excellent, accessible,” Garcia said. “The environment is great. They took into consideration every single detail: colors, space, playgrounds…I'm very satisfied for the kids and for all the good teachers that work in here, making their life easier.”