Retirement home gives new meaning to 'senior prom'

DeKALB – The first “Senior Prom” at Heritage Woods of DeKalb assisted living community brought about 50 residents to the community room to foster new relationships and strengthen old ones.

Robert and Irene Jorgensen listened to the music from the 1940s and ’50s and watched couples dance. They have been married for 66 years.

“I met her after the war, World War II,” Robert Jorgensen said.

Henry Joesten and his wife Beverly, also residents of Heritage Woods, have been married for 67 years. While the Jorgensens and Beverly Joesten did not dance, Henry Joesten took to the dance floor with some of the younger attendees, including Northern Illinois University graduate student Liz McAllister and Paige Lee, 16, who is the daughter of the facility’s residential service coordinator, Julie Krueger.

Krueger recruited volunteers from NIU to dance with the residents.

NIU freshman Garrett Aiken said he heard about the senior prom after attending a Sweetheart Dance at Heritage Woods in February and wanted to come back. He was one of seven members of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity who volunteered to dance with the women.

“They can dance,” said Aiken, the fraternity’s philanthropy chairman, about the women at Heritage Woods. “They can outdance us and they showed us the moves.”

Aiken and his friends did manage to keep the ladies of Heritage Woods on their toes. At the Sweetheart Dance in February, they taught the ladies to do the Chicken Dance, and at the Senior Prom they demonstrated the YMCA.

Inez Wilton, 90, enjoyed every minute of the evening chatting with friends, listening to music and watching the others dance.

“I don’t feel old and I don’t act old, but I guess I should,” she said.