‘Senior Prom’ gives Cherry Hill nursing home residents chance to relive high school

AristaCare staff organized event with food, music and even a prom king and queen

Nancy Roskey and Jim Durkin pose for a photo Aug. 30 during AristaCare at Cherry Hill’s “Senior Prom” event. They were later named prom king and queen.

Residents at a nursing home in Cherry Hill were discussing their experience in high school when several remarked they had never attended their senior prom.

So the staff at AristaCare at Cherry Hill decided to give those residents a second chance by hosting a “Senior Prom” on Aug. 30 at the facility, located on Chapel Avenue near Route 38.

The prom was held a few hours earlier than a typical high school prom, but it featured gowns, music, food and dancing.

Tricia Gaffney arrived in a black dress and a beaded necklace. She has been living at the facility since her husband died a year ago and said events like the prom help keep her “spirits up.”

“This is wonderful,” Gaffney said. “It’s like family here.”

Tricia Gaffney arrives at AristaCare at Cherry Hill’s “Senior Prom” event, which was held Aug. 30.

Staff members in the recreation department at AristaCare gathered about 30 dresses and 20 suits for the prom. They laid out the outfits for the residents in the morning, and the women also had a chance to have their hair, makeup and nails done.

“They lose a lot of autonomy” when they come here, said Vanessa Ais, the facility’s director of recreation. “To have events like this is to remind them that they’re not just a room number, not just a patient.”

Staff members were also decked out in formal attire to heighten the experience.

Anna Mirrione frequently visits her mother Frances at AristaCare, and both were in attendance for the prom.

“This is great for them,” Anna said. “It’s an opportunity for them to get dressed up.”

Frances Mirrione poses for a photo Aug. 30 during AristaCare at Cherry Hill’s “Senior Prom” event.

The prom featured live music, dance tunes, a photo booth and a casino-style money wheel and slot machines — token operated, of course.

Several residents and staff members hit the dance floor of the facility’s ballroom when the DJ played the hit song “Danza Kudro” by Don Omar.

Staff members even crowned a prom king and queen — the honors went to Jim Durkin and Nancy Roskey.

“He’s a good man,” said Roskey, who was sporting a red dress.

Durkin said he feared his name would be announced after they crowned Roskey. The two were sitting together and posing for photos at the start of the event.

“It’s all in good fun,” Durkin said, chuckling.