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Creating ‘wonderful new memories’

Strings of white lights, blue glittered streamers and cutouts of underwater creatures welcomed senior participants of Centra PACE’s second-annual Senior Prom on Thursday morning.

A number of seniors used walkers and canes for balance, while some danced without assistance during the event, offered by the program of all-inclusive care for the elderly.

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Nearly all of the seniors wore smiles in addition to dress gowns and suits. Many staff members also dressed up and danced with senior participants.

Seniors also got photos taken of them after the prom, and two participants — William Davenport and Mattie Wilson — were crowned king and queen, respectively, following a vote. A prom held Friday saw the crowning of Walter Beasley and Bertha Hurt as king and queen, respectively.

Mary Simonetta, a marketing director with Centra Health, said the seniors picked out the theme for the prom, decided on the colors of the decorations and decorated the cutout fish and other undersea creatures that lined the dance room.

“The PACE participants reminisce about their past experience(s) through dressing up, dancing and socializing and they are also able to make wonderful new memories,” Simonetta said. “Many of the participants didn’t have a chance to attend their own prom so it held an even more special place for many.”

The seniors also chose a menu of barbecue beef brisket, macaroni and cheese, roasted root vegetables, chicken soup and cupcakes for dessert, which participants enjoyed after the prom.

Social Worker Angela Edmonds, like many of the staff members, wore a dress gown and danced with a few

seniors at a nearby table. Edmonds said she got overwhelmed by the joy she saw in the participants.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” Edmonds said. “You can see and tell there are smiles from (the dancers) enjoying themselves.”

“I’m looking forward to next year,” she said.

Sybil Brown, an event participant, said she attended last year’s prom and had a good time, and said she was also enjoying herself this time around.

“It’s very nice,” Brown said. “Everybody enjoys it here.”

Playing a high-energy mix of contemporary and classic tunes, even participants who were sitting at nearby tables got to take part in the songs, such as “YMCA” by The Village People and “The Chicken Dance.”

The senior prom started last August. Headed by Recreational Therapist Elise Hemmer, the event offers senior citizens a chance to think back on fond memories and create new ones in a fun and social environment.

Simonetta said it was delightful to see the senior participants enjoy one another’s company and forge fond memories.

“We love seeing our participants in this light, we always love to see them having fun and being in engaged in an activity that is fun but also strengthens them both physically and mentally,” Simonetta said. “We love caring for our participants and enjoy spending time with them on a special occasion like this event.”

Simonetta said PACE organizes daily activities for seniors, including outings to restaurants, shopping centers and fishing.