Gilbert senior facility treats residents to a prom | Community

By Kevinjonah Paguio, Cronkite News
6 Min Read

Prom is something that usually happens in high school, but not for the residents of Savanna House in Gilbert.

Seniors there were full of excitement for a recent prom held at their facility.

Carol Dudash, 77, relished the primping and prepping of getting dressed up for the event. Step by step, she used her walker to get to the bathroom. With some help from volunteer Joya Haymon, she applied makeup – a rarity.

The Savanna House seniors were joined by residents of two sister communities – Sky Vista and Sky Ridge – who were also excited to break up their daily routine with something special. All three facilities are owned by MBK Senior Living.

For some residents, the event enabled them to relive memories of long-ago proms; for others, it was a chance to attend prom for the first time. For the residents of all three communities, it was a chance to meet up and enjoy a fun afternoon.

After finishing up their preparations, Savanna House residents boarded paratransit buses outfitted to assist people with limited mobility.

After a short ride, they arrived at American Leadership Academy’s Gilbert North 7-12 campus. As they got off the buses, they were greeted by academy students who escorted them to the gymnasium. Entering the gym, they walked under a balloon arch and were greeted by the live music of a three-man band.

Residents of the three assisted living and memory care communities made the prom their own. They chatted, sang, danced and laughed throughout the afternoon. The chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” echoed off the gym’s walls and inspired people to sing along with chants of “Bum! Bum! Bum!”

Dudash stayed in her chair but moved to the rhythm of the music and enjoyed taking part in this lively event.

The prom provided an important aspect of life that is integral to senior citizens’ health: socialization.

The growing number of older Americans in the U.S. population is considered “unprecedented in U.S. history.” In 2010 there were 40.2 million Americans age 65 or older; by 2022, that number had risen to 57.8 million, a 43.8% increase, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Arizona’s older population is following the same trend; in 2010, there were over 880,000 seniors while in 2022 that number reached over 1.3 million, growing by 56.1%.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research organization, the U.S. population numbers are projected to increase to 82 million by 2050, making the U.S. population older today than it has ever been.

Socialization is a key way to improve the overall health of this growing population. A 2021 study published in PLOS ONE, a science journal, found that “having more daily social interactions, especially more pleasant social interactions, related to better cognitive performance.”

“Everybody needs to feel loved,” said Kim Wood, director of wellness programming at Savanna House. “It doesn’t matter who you think you are, everybody needs a sense of self-worth, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose.”

Savanna House has implemented regular opportunities for its residents to socialize, such as group exercise, get-togethers to catch up on current events and bingo. These activities provide residents a way to break up daily routines that can become mundane.

If opportunities for socialization don’t exist, Wood said, residents would grieve “for their past life” and “lack of independence.”

Residents echoed this.

“It would be very lonely if I didn’t have someone else to talk to,” Lillian Harris, 77, a 2-year resident at Savanna House, said.

“I’d be like a vegetable, eventually,” Dudash, a 5-year resident at Savanna House, said. “I’d wither away. ”

Socialization includes both resident-to-resident interaction and connecting with staff.

“Everybody that works here can remember your name and acknowledge you, and that makes you feel more like a person instead of a patient,” Harris said.

Dudash appreciates the efforts staff take to make sure she is OK. Whether it is asking if she is doing all right or if she needs assistance with a task, she values the little things. The laughter of younger staff members is enough.

“You’re in a society,” she said. “You feel like you’re in society; you’re not shoved somewhere in a hole.”

The Savanna House uses socialization as an effective tool to combat detrimental effects of aging, like loneliness and isolation.

“It brought more life into me,” Dudash said.

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By Kevinjonah Paguio, Cronkite News , – Vivrr Local Results in community of type article , 2024-03-30 07:00:00
Tags: community

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