The University of Richmond's chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) hosted its annual senior citizen prom on April 10 in the Alice Haynes Room. 

Approximately 50 residents from retirement homes in the Richmond area attended the Salsa Night-themed event, said Sandra Reyes, a sophomore APO member and senior citizen prom event chair.

APO is a co-ed, national community-service fraternity. The senior citizen prom is one of the UR APO chapter's largest annual service events. 

“I love that we get the senior citizens out of their homes for a night of fun and socializing,” said junior APO member Quinn Kirkpatrick. 

Mable Jean Essex, a resident at Manorhouse Assisted Living and Memory Care, said: “I attended this event a few years ago and I remember a lot of dancing. And I’m excited to be here tonight.”

APO members decorated the Alice Haynes Room with silver glitter, white and silver balloon centerpieces, black tablecloths, and red roses. 

“I didn’t know much about the event,” said Corinne Augustine, a resident at Our Lady of Hope Health Center, “and I was surprised when I showed up and saw the magnificent decorations.”

There were many activities for the senior citizens to enjoy, such as salsa and merengue lessons, an open dance floor in the middle of the room, a photo booth with props, a raffle with a Tostitos basket prize, and a crowning ceremony for the prom king and queen.

Most of the senior citizens decided to observe the salsa and merengue lessons while enjoying their dinners as members of APO took over the dance floor with high energy to kick off the night. 

"I like to dance, but I’m not a big dancer unless people go first because I am shy,”  Essex said. 

Salsa music continued to play throughout the evening.

Adrienne Wagoner, the activities director at Manorhouse Assisted Living and Memory Care, said the residents loved coming to the event. 

“It is really good for our members to meet friends, get out of the facility and engage with Richmond students, but I think spending time with the students is their favorite part," Wagoner said.

A lot of planning goes into the event for both APO and the retirement homes. Reyes, along with other APO members, planned, set up, hosted and cleaned up from the event. 

Preparation includes sending out invitations and reminders, scheduling activities, decorating to theme, spending time with the residents and following up about future events, Wagoner said.

Julia Martin, the activities director at Our Lady of Hope Health Center, said the retirement homes spent at least a week preparing the residents for the prom, in addition to the distribution of signup sheets and spreading the word throughout the homes through newsletters and flyers. Employees at the homes help the residents find clothes that are appropriate for the event, but also comfortable. 

“Most of them don’t have super fancy clothes in their closets, so we dig through their wardrobe to find options that they will be happy wearing,” Martin said.

Along with clothing, Wagoner supplied her residents with big, red-rose, clip-on accessories that suited the Salsa Night theme. Martin brought a necklace and hair clip for one of her residents as well as makeup for the other women. 

“Many of them didn’t want to wear the mascara, but they liked the lipstick,” Martin said.

Jordan Gregory, the activities coordinator at Our Lady of Hope Health Center, said,“This is a big event that we look forward to attending every year.” 

The senior citizen prom was a night full of festivities, high energy and creating friendships that made the guests' experience truly special. 

“I hope I will get to attend again next year,” Essex said, “and maybe I’ll practice my dance moves.”

Contact contributor Julia Schmuckler at julia.schmuckler@richmond.edu.