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Senior Proms, More Than Just a Dance

Affairs grow in popularity as fundraisers and intergenerational mixers

Dancing the night away

Some proms have become a long-standing tradition. The Madison (Wis.) Senior Center recently hosted its 12th annual junior/senior prom in April. The event draws more than a hundred attendees each year, and rounding up about $6,000 since its inception. Students from the University of Wisconsin at Madison were the juniors, and anyone age 50 and older were the seniors.

The college students write grants, dream up the theme and recruit young volunteers for the event. "People change partners, and no one is left alone," says Patricia Guttenberg, the center's program director. This year's theme — "Jailhouse Rock" jukebox — featured music from the 1940s and '50s.

Donations and grants covered a live band, decorations, food, door prizes and other expenses. "Students generally have no money, and many older adults have limited funds, too," Guttenberg says. The prom is more about socializing than fundraising, and there's no cost to attend.

Roman and Marie Chavez have attended the event for at least seven years. This time, Roman asked three young women to dance, and they obliged. "They're good sports," says Roman, 73, a retired postal clerk from Madison. "They give it the old college try."

He dressed up in black pants and a matching short-sleeved shirt, emblazoned with a blue-and-gold dragon on the front and back. His wife donned a pastel-pink dress with cap sleeves.

"We always try to wear something we've had for a while," says Marie, 63, who plays the accordion at a farmers market. "This is in remembrance of years gone by."

You may also like: Dancing the years away. >>

Susan Kreimer is a writer in New York.

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