Fairfield Senior Center Wants More Staff, Better Space

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Richard DeAngelis talks to the Fairfield Board of Selectmen about his committee's suggestions for improving the Fairfield Senior Center. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Fairfield Senior Center wants to make major changes to its programs to appeal to a growing class of younger senior citizens. At the top of the center’s wish list is more staff and a new or renovated building.

Richard DeAngelis and Ron Atwater led a group called the Top 10 Committee, which dedicated itself to finding the Top 10 ways to improve the Fairfield Senior Center. The group conducted a survey of Fairfield seniors to see what they wanted at the center. They also looked at towns across Connecticut to see how their senior centers operate.

The Senior Center hopes to appeal to a younger clientele, especially Fairfielders under 65. This target audience is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years as Baby Boomers continue to age.

“I would not want anyone to interpret this report as an indictment of the town, or as an indictment of the administration of the senior center,” Atwater said. “What it is is a plea for resources.”

The center’s management is using some of the committee’s recommendations. They have added night programs a few days per week to accommodate seniors who still work. They also plan to install a computerized tracking program to see how many people use the center and what activities are most popular.

The committee also asked the Board of Selectmen to consider an increase in funding to the senior center. Its current budget is $340,000. Of the recommendations the group made, “a full-time director and a [renovation] feasibility study we think are imperative to be done immediately,” DeAngelis said.

Human Services Director Claire Grace currently runs the Senior Center. The committee compared Fairfield with six other facilities in Connecticut, and all have a full-time director separate from the Human Services Department head.

The committee suggested hiring a distinct full-time director, along with an extra part-time social worker and a part-time receptionist. They estimate the move would cost $117,000 per year in salary and benefits.

The Senior Center is housed in what was once Oldfield School, which was built in 1952. It shares the building with A Child’s Garden day care, a private organization that pays rent to the town. The committee’s report outlines a number of ways the building needs to be improved, including repairs to the windows and roof and adding lecture halls and sound-proofed rooms for certain classes.

DeAngelis and Atwater suggested a feasibility study to look into these possible upgrades. The study would compare the costs of renovating the current building, renovating a different town-owned building or constructing a new center.

“I think this is going to be a multiyear conversation,” Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey said after the report Wednesday. “Because it is going to take a number of years before we can really get to the point where we think we need to be as a town.”

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Bryna Brennan, 73, Former Fairfield Resident