Feeling 17 again

Zoe Greszler • Mar 18, 2019 at 2:00 AM

WILLARD — Young and old alike were decked out in their finest Friday evening as Willard High School students, family and friends attended and escoted senior citizens to their very own prom.

The Willows at Willard held its third annual Senior Prom, where life enrichment director Lana Stephens said the event is taken just as seriously as any prom. The whole day leading up to the event is dedicated to making the residents feel handsome or beautiful, looking their finest before going before their friends and the community, vying for the crown at the end of the night. 

“The residents love it,” she said. “A lot of them never went to their own prom and some of them didn’t even finish high school. They really enjoy it. They enjoy getting dazzled up — getting their hair done and their nails done. We treat the whole day just like someone who’s 17 would — the whole bit. They get their hair, nails, makeup done. They get a gown or whatever they feel comfortable in and they just absolutely love it.”

As with any proper prom, the Willows residents were announced and paraded down the halls with their escorts before enjoying punch and other goodies.

Most were escorted by high school students who also were dressed to the nines in their own prom attires. Some residents, though, chose to escort each other or had family or friends accompany them. In one instance, a 1-year-old accompanied his 102-year-old great grandfather around the facility. 

Then came the big moment — the crowning.

King William Martin and Queen Layetta Long were crowned royalty from the assisted living center, while George Adams and Joyce Smith were crowned from the senior health center. 

Smith was especially surprised to hear her name called. The 91-year-old resident covered her mouth in shock and became bashful as the crown and sash were put on her. 

“I never thought it would happen to me,” Smith said. “I never went to prom. It’s my first (prom). I’m excited.”

Martin said she felt it “draws too much attention,” and that he’s “too old for that” at 102 years old. 

“We didn’t have this back when I was in school. I’ve been out of school for just a couple years, you know,” he said with a laugh. “We didn’t have all this back then. We just graduated and got the hell out. I guess now we get to celebrate (with a prom).” 

The Willows at Willard partnered with the Willard High School to put the special night together to benefit all involved, Stephens said. 

“It gave us the opportunity to connect generations, which is a very powerful thing,” she said. “We found that when the younger generation would come in, our residents would just light up. Not only did it benefit our residents, but I’ve also heard stories how the students that were coming in were touched just as much by it as our residents. This was the perfect event to bring young and old.”

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