Students treat nursing home residents to ‘senior prom’

Laura Corriher, a senior recreational therapy major at WCU, cuts the rug with Cliff Woffler at the “senior prom” event at Mountain Trace Nursing Center.

Laura Corriher, a senior recreational therapy major at WCU, cuts the rug with Cliff Woffler at the “senior prom” event at Mountain Trace Nursing Center.

Residents of the Mountain Trace Nursing Center took a trip down memory lane Friday, March 16, when students from Western Carolina University’s Recreational Therapy Association organized a “senior prom” as part of a service learning project.

The students, who are providing recreational therapy interventions to residents of the Alzheimer’s unit at Mountain Trace as part of their coursework, coordinated an evening of dining, dancing and socializing patterned after the traditional high school senior prom night, said Peg Connolly, associate professor and coordinator of the recreational therapy degree program at WCU.

“Based on their positive experiences through service learning and their commitment to do more for the residents, last spring the students began discussing a social event that would reach all residents,” Connolly said. “Under the direction of adviser Paula Demonet, they collected donations throughout the area, and the response from the residents and staff at Mountain Trace was overwhelmingly supportive.”

About 50 residents took part in the prom, voting for “king” and “queen,” dressing in their best clothes, and clapping to music provided by a bluegrass band that volunteered its time for the event, said Claudia King, activities director at Mountain Trace. “We have the highest participation we have ever had from a social event here tonight,” King said.

Becky Halioua, a senior recreational therapy major at WCU and president of the Recreational Therapy Association, crowned Cliff Woffler as king and Janet Jones as queen.

Plans are already under way for a similar dance for fall semester.