For at least 40 assisted living residents, a senior prom is something many of them said they barely even remember. Now they have given it another go, as true “seniors,” with maybe a little less energy for the dance floor, but a lot more heart, soul and wisdom.
Sunrise of Fairfax, located at 9207 Arlington Blvd., put on its second annual senior prom, Thursday, June 29. Residents dressed in formal attire and enjoyed dinner together before hitting the dance floor. The Sunrise staff organized the prom, and they all helped make sure it was a success.
“Whether you’re 8 or 88, there are certain things like getting dressed and eating elegant food that make you feel great,” said Reuben Rosenfeld, executive director at the center. “Getting dressed up makes you feel like a million bucks.”
DRESSING FOR the prom was an all-day affair. Staff members helped the women with hair and make-up, just like 18-year-olds do before their high school proms. Elizabeth Banda, a manager at Sunrise, said the residents were anticipating the prom for weeks. Some of the women, she said, were a little concerned about not having a date for the dance.
“A few joked around with us and said ‘are you going to find me a date?’” said Banda.
Many resident had family members join them for the occasion. Virginia Sheaffer moved into Sunrise just over a month ago, and her daughter, Ellen Gomez, was there to celebrate with the rest of the assisted living community.
“This is exciting,” said Gomez. “I guess we came [to Sunrise] at a great time.”
Sheaffer said she never experienced a high school prom, since she attended an all-girls school. She was 17-years old when she graduated during the middle of the Great Depression, and she remembers celebrating her last year of high school differently.
“We used to have a boat ride,” said Sheaffer. “That was the big thing.”
As the music played, many residents could be heard singing the words to the tunes from their generation. Steve McIntire deejayed the event, playing songs from the 1940s and beyond. Sheaffer perked up when she heard Frank Sinatra, or “Frankie,” one of her favorites.
“It’s music they can relate to that was popular at the time they would have been going to the prom,” said Lucille Johnson, a part-time employee at the residence.
Ingrid Moore, the activities director at Sunrise, coordinated the event. She walked through the dining room initiating sing-alongs, with many residents joining in on the fun.
“They love it,” said Moore. “They just beam.”
AFTER DINNER, everyone made his or her way to the dance floor. Although the music continued, few were dancing. Naomi Tehada, a Sunrise resident, was one of the first to show her moves on the dance floor. She danced alone, wearing sunglasses the entire evening, and helped break the ice for some of the more shy and timid residents. Many women sat on couches surrounding the room, reminiscent of a prom where women patiently wait for the right gentleman to ask them to dance. One of the downfalls of the event was the disproportionate ratio of women to men, said Donna Cash, one of the coordinators of the event. Since women generally live longer, women outnumbered men by about three to one, thus making an uneven number of couples. It didn’t seem to matter though once the evening got going, as women danced together alongside couples, singles, men and women.
“They look forward to these events,” said Cash. “It’s very good for their growth.”
While many residents either didn’t want to dance or physically couldn’t dance, everyone smiled as the music played. They looked on as others danced, and they laughed and joked with one another. The whole point of the event, said Rosenfeld, is to make sure the residents feel like they’re a part of something. The socialization, movement and fun of it all are what they appreciate, said Cash, since many of the longtime residents have true friendships and bonds with one another.
“It’s a community in the real sense,” said Cash.
“With these events, people’s ailments go away,” said Rosenfeld.