A Very Special Prom Night

Posted: July 16, 1989

Dorothy Kownacki of Willingboro got a second chance - at age 93 - to dress up and dance at a prom.

She and 34 other senior citizens at Zurbrugg Adult Medical Day Center in Riverside participated last month in a "senior prom" and luncheon sponsored by the center. Each month, the center prepares a special event for the 65 older adults who live with family but come to the center for special care during the day.

Because their emotional needs are just as important as medical and physical needs, a prom was arranged to arouse happy memories of younger, healthier days, said Barbara Batson, the center's director.

Batson said too much time is spent focusing on illnesses and losses. A prom, she added, was a terrific way to spark memories of dancing, dressing up and first boyfriends.

The festivities began after breakfast when the women and men got to pick out a gown or a tuxedo from an array of clothing donated by local thrift shops. Hair was arranged by a beautician who also helped the women with their make-up. A flower-covered arch was rented, and a round of applause was given as the seniors, at the arm of an escort, entered the room through the arch. The records played were from the Big Band era, and those who could danced. ''Sentimental Journey" was a particular favorite, Batson said.

Batson recalled an 85-year-old approaching the arch with her walker and escort, Morris Stein, 65, of Rancocas. The lady dropped the walker, clutched Stein's arm and said she would walk on her own. She said she didn't want to be 85 at that moment.

"We forget that old people want to look their best and have fun," Batson said. "The fantasy of the prom was a success, and we plan to do it again next year."

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