Photo: courtesy of Marquis Health Consulting Services

For one special late-April night, nursing home residents were the center of attention at 17 buildings across New England. 

Residents of Marquis Health Consulting Services’ Massachusetts and Rhode Island facilities were treated to a senior prom night April 26 — though with a different definition of “senior” than is typically used. 

The annual event is in its third year, said Seana Hall, vice president of life enrichment at Marquis Health Consulting Services.

“We really look for ideas on how to enhance our residents’ experience and quality of life,” she told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “We like to do big events like spring flings and dances in general, but really wanted to bring it home with a big senior prom across all 17 of our centers.”

Around 70 to 100 residents attended the prom night at each of Marquis’ 17 facilities — conservatively estimated at 1,200 total — according to Hall. They attended in their best prom night attire, often arriving with a family member or another resident as their date for the evening.

Residents of each facility also selected a prom king and queen by vote in the days leading up to each event.

Senior prom queen crowned at one Marquis facility by Miss Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Marquis Health Consulting Services

Marquis rolled out the red carpet for its residents, collaborating with more than 90 local partners that contributed to helping the ambitious event go off without a hitch. 

“Post-COVID, we wanted to put a focus on getting our community back in our buildings for our residents,” Hall said. “We have worked hard the past couple of years to have more community involvement, as well as intergenerational involvement.”

Local partners donated prom night clothes, decorations, food, cake and even volunteered as singers at the events. Beauty queens — including Miss Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as Miss Massachusetts and Rhode Island Teen — also showed up to dance with residents at facilities in both states and police officers handed out roses to residents at Westerly Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Westerly, RI. 

High school classes also spent time with the seniors in partnered programs with their schools — working on senior projects in subjects like cosmetology and photography by helping residents with hair, makeup and event photography.  

The best part of the night, though, was the sense of purpose and joy that was palpable among the residents, Hall said.

“We make it about the residents from the start to the end,” she said. “The residents are a part of picking the theme for the prom, helping with the decorations and the whole planning process. It really gives them a sense of purpose, and that’s the main goal.”

Residents even worked with their facilities’ therapy departments for weeks or months in advance to get them prepared to get onto the dance floor as best as they were able.

“Bigger events like this where the residents are truly so involved and given that sense of purpose of making it happen and seeing their hard work come to life — there’s nothing like it,” Hall said. “If someone has the chance to do an event like this, it’s absolutely worth it.”