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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens

Learn how this agency planned and hosted a Senior Prom for its entire, four-county community of older adults together in one place for an opportunity to dress up and go to an off-site venue for an afternoon of music, fun, food and fellowship.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens' Senior Prom. The agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Social Engagement category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
To combat social isolation and loneliness in a rural area and bring together older adults from its different programs for physical activity, nutrition services and social engagement, Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens (AASC) transformed the local police department into a beautiful prom setting for older adults living in the rural four-county area served by the agency. For the “Blue Moon Gala,” older adults donned fine gowns or suits and had their makeup and hair done for an afternoon of music, dancing, food, photos, fellowship and fun. A prom king and queen were crowned and driven back to the agency with a special police escort. For the second year of the prom, AASC partnered with a local high school to obtain prom decorations and held the event, with the theme “Strut Your Stuff,” at the recreation park.
 
Approximately 75 older adults participated in each prom. Participants displayed improvements in self-esteem due to the special attire and grooming and enjoyed physical activity and socialization.
 
“One of the most important impacts the Senior Prom had on the community was increasing awareness of the area's older adult population and some of the services and programs provided by AASC. Local news coverage from a TV station and newspaper helped spread the word about the prom and the agency. The prom was made possible by many community partners working toward the same goal—giving these older adults an opportunity for social engagement beyond the normal programs at AASC,” said Lynna Mitchell, Grant Writer at AASC.
 
AASC's Senior Prom was a very special occasion for all the participants and was extremely rewarding for the staff.
 
“Almost all the AASC staff involved in the Senior Prom agreed that it was one of the best things we have ever done for our seniors. Seeing their faces when they saw themselves dressed up with their special occasion hair and makeup was priceless. Their faces also lit up when they first saw the decorated venues—it was very magical,” added Mitchell.
 
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the adult day center and all the congregate nutrition sites have been closed for the safety of the older adults, so the senior prom was not held in 2020. Limited numbers of participants are now attending the adult day center and nutrition sites are preparing to re-open. As soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health department guidelines permit, AASC plans to hold the Senior Prom once again.
 
To learn more about the Senior Prom and how you can replicate a similar program in your community, contact Regina Sayers, rsayers@aasc.org and Lynna Mitchell, lmitchell@aasc.org.

For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

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