Prom provides special experience for homebound seniors

For high school students, the senior prom is one of the last opportunities to spend time with friends before parting ways. But for the May 18 senior prom at the Historic Fifth Street School, attendees experienced one of their first and only opportunities to socialize with friends.

Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada hosted its second annual prom for homebound seniors, providing opportunities for individuals 55 or older to mix and mingle with one another over hors d’oeuvres and music from the Starlight Quartet.

The event is designed for Catholic Charities’ Senior Companion participants, which pairs homebound seniors with volunteers who assist with daily chores and errands.

“The purpose of the program is to help seniors stay independent in their homes,” program supervisor Carol Hinkell said . “The prom is in conjunction with the whole program. Anything we can do to connect them with the community is important.”

Recruitment manager Linda Lagoy said the program, part of the Senior Corps national initiative, combats some of Nevada’s negative stereotypes, such as its low volunteer numbers and high rates for suicide among seniors. The program, she said, equally benefits the volunteers and the participants.

“Many volunteers have been in the same places as our clients,” Lagoy said. “This program offers networking and (provides) the opportunity to give back to the community. It makes them happier and makes them healthier.”

Senior Companion volunteers and participants must be at least 55 years old, qualify as low-income individuals and be able to devote 15 to 40 hours to the program each week. Volunteers transport companions to medical appointments and grocery stores and help with light housekeeping or other requests. They receive training, a small hourly stipend, accident insurance and transportation reimbursement.

Diane Stamps, volunteer and prom attendee, said the program is as beneficial to her as it is to those she assists each week.

“As a senior companion, it’s my job to get them back into life,” Stamps said. “You get so attached, you forget it’s a job. It just takes a knock on the door or a phone call, and if I don’t hear from them, I worry. It becomes more than a job. It’s your life.”

Stamps anticipated connecting with her companions and other volunteers at the senior prom, which she viewed as a second chance in recreating a momentous occasion.

“I kind of missed my senior prom,” Stamps said. “I like the theme, A Night in Paris. I might never get there, but I get a taste here with my friends.”

It’s these connections, Lagoy said, that help homebound seniors become more independent and less lonely, which is why she views Catholic Charities’ prom as one of the most significant events of the year.

“A lot of (seniors) who have never been to the prom before get to experience it here,” Lagoy said. “They get an opportunity to get out of the house, dress up and socialize. We’re giving them a reason to get away from the TV, try something new and get out and be with other people.”

For more information on the Senior Companion program and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, call 382-0721 or visit catholiccharities.com.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at lcarter@viewnews.com or 383-4686.

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