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Senior citizens celebrate senior prom with Ohio State students

Dot Schweikart dances with an Ohio State student at the Senior Citizen Prom on March 9. Credit: Erin Gottsacker | Lantern Reporter

Dot Schweikart said she never had the chance to go to her senior prom in high school, but approximately 70 years later she showed off her dancing skills at the Senior Citizen Prom, organized by Ohio State Honors and Scholars students.

The event, held Thursday evening at the Westminster-Thurber Assisted Living Facility, was an attempt to connect Ohio State students with local senior citizens, allowing both students and seniors to socialize with groups of people that they do not get to interact with on a normal basis.

During the event, about 50 senior citizens and OSU students had the chance to mingle over a light dinner, share stories and partake in a few dances to music from the 1950s — an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of prom during a decade when many of the seniors were in high school.

Jamie Hobson, the director of activities at the Westminster-Thurber Assisted Living Facility, said this type of event is especially important for senior citizens.

“They don’t really get to socialize with other people, and socializing with people from all ages — not just the same people — has been proven to help with their emotional health,” she said. “Tomorrow morning they may remember this, or they may not, but you have to live in the moment here because you don’t know when it’s going to be your last one.”

At the same time, the Senior Citizen Prom offered OSU students the opportunity to interact with a demographic that is rarely seen on a college campus.

“There’s so much to learn about (senior citizens’) lives and wisdom,” said Jasmine Johnson, co-chair of the service engagement committee with the Honors and Scholars Programming Board. “They have so much to tell you and teach you that it’s like service both ways.”

Johnson said she was inspired to help organize the Senior Citizen Prom because of her experiences with her grandfather, who died about a year ago.

“Before that he was in a nursing home, and it was kind of sad in there. There was nothing really to do,” Johnson said. “Now my grandma lives alone and a lot of their friends have passed away, so having something that they can look forward to is really important. We’ll all be old one day, and I hope someone would do something like this for me.”

This is the second event that the Honors and Scholars Programming Board has held in collaboration with the Westminster-Thurber Assisted Living Facility, but hopefully not the last, Johnson said.

“Our imaginations can really run wild with what we want to do and with what we think students want,” Johnson said. “This is more than picking up trash or doing something like that. You feel this impact when you hear (senior citizens’) stories, listen to what they tell you and to the wisdom they have to share.”

For Schweikart, events like these are an opportunity to meet new people and take pictures to show her children, but this event in particular offered an opportunity to relive her dancing days.

“Dancing was such a big part of life after World War II,” she said. “I never went to prom, but I’m here tonight.”

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