Generations connect, get their groove on at Senior Citizens Prom

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Photo Gallery | 22nd annual senior citizens prom

Video | Drury High School students and seniors do the 'chicken dance' at the senior citizen prom on Tuesday.

NORTH ADAMS — You're at a rare kind of event if the parking lot outside is full of a combination of nursing home buses and high school students' disorganized jalopies.

That's the point of the Senior Citizens Prom, an annual generation-bender project organized by Drury High School's Sociology department. The school hosted the event for the 23rd time on Tuesday.

"[Students] have more fun here than at their own prom," said Heather Boulger, vice chairperson of the city School Committee, said.

Hits from the Bee Gees to the B-52s blared out of the speakers and hardly anyone shied away from the dance floor.

Yes, students perhaps came for the class credit — but nobody required them to spend three hours dancing, as many did.

Kevin Stanton, a resident of Sweet Brook Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Williamstown, was surrounded by a horde of young girls at one point. Stanton described how it happened.

"The one in red keeps stealing me," he said. "She had to take her shoes off. She said her feet are killing her."

Patrick Boulger, a Drury Social Studies teacher, said the event breaks down stereotypes that the old have about the young and vice-versa.

"A lot of times there's a gap in understanding between the two generations," Boulger said. "It's amazing to me how over the course of the three hours we're here how many kids and seniors break down barriers."

He added, "It's a wonderful thing to watch from a teaching perspective, from a human perspective. Every single year I'll hear for the next couple days from students about how this was one of the most fun times they had in high school. Year after year, graduates will tell me — it's not a question, it's more of statement — 'You still do the Senior Citizen's Prom.' It's not a question of not doing this anymore."

The event sticks with the seniors just as long, according to North Adams Commons Nursing & Rehabilitation Center receptionist Terri Bird.

"They're going to be talking about this for the next three weeks," Bird said. "Before, they get so excited. They go to the hairdresser, pick out a nice outfit. The kids are amazing. They interact with them, they dance with them."

Eileen O'Grady, a Sweet Brook nurse, said the event "single-handedly closes the generation gap."

"They're on the floor dancing like best friends," O'Grady said. "I love it."

The theme of the event was "A Dance for the Decades," and the décor and music reflected icons from every era. Turnout was strong. Roughly 70 seniors from area nursing homes and about as many students, ages 13 to 18, attended the prom.

Participants entered in a promenade and a king and queen would be named before the night's end.

"A couple years ago there was a 95-year-old woman who got the queen, and she started crying because this was the first prom she'd ever been to," Drury Principal Amy Meehan said.

Early on in Tuesday's event, a veteran senior saddled up his wheelchair next to a poster featuring Rosie the Riveter to have his picture taken, and remained there admiring the image for some moments after.

"The kids involved got choked up in that moment," Patrick Boulger said. "This is now something that's more than a grade or a project, it's a life experience — a life connection, which is something we talk about in class."

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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