Senior to Senior Prom - a Sweet and Successful Intergenerational Event
On Friday, June 9, The Chelsea at Clifton hosted a very special prom for some very special guests. The Chelsea’s Senior to Senior Prom, which welcomes local high school seniors who come to dance and socialize with the senior citizen residents, is the brainchild of Lifestyles Director Kyisha Branch. Dressed in eye-catching red with sparkly accents, Kyisha - also known as Ky - was happy to make introductions to the residents, who she cares about deeply.
The feeling appeared to be mutual as one resident, 93-year-old Eva, insisted on tying the loose laces on Kyisha’s shoes, reminiscent of a grandmother’s practical act of love. It was a sweet moment, highlighting the care and respect that Kyisha and the residents have for each other. “She’s just a wonderful person,” Eva later said of her.
Kyisha, who has been the Lifestyles Director at The Chelsea since late November of 2021, was excited to talk about the Senior to Senior Prom and said that she organized the first one last year. Seven seniors from local high schools attended that first prom event; she is hoping for a few more this year. Kyisha’s background in education and knowledge of how much joy children can bring to the elderly led her to the idea of this multi-generational event. “My inspiration was to give our Chelsea seniors the prom they maybe never had,” she said. That event was a big success, Kyisha recalled. “One of the [high school] seniors got on the mic...and said ‘This was more fun than MY prom!’”
Kyisha named her primary responsibility, “Making sure that my staff and my team are creating smiles, joy, love, laughter, and great memories.” She wants every resident to “live their best life” and this dance is just one way to help them do that. To prepare for the big event, Kyisha organized a styling session for all interested residents. The 46 Lounge, a large, tastefully decorated and modern space, was stocked with donated dresses, shoes, and jewelry. There were also suit separates, ties, and shoes for the men. As the residents filed in, Kyisha and other team members helped them find something special to wear. Cora, a petite woman in her nineties, laughed girlishly as she tried to interpret how to wear a particularly intricate outfit in bright pink.
All the clothing and accessories offered were free for residents to take and keep. Kyisha receives donations throughout the year, allowing her to create these opportunities for residents to “shop” on-site. Nearly a dozen fashionistas made their way to the lounge for this styling event, representing about a fifth of The Chelsea’s 59 residents.
The Senior to Senior Prom was held on Friday, June 9th at 5 pm. A blue, gold, and white balloon arch over the door was a fun and festive entrance for two groups of seniors – one from local high schools, the other senior citizen residents of The Chelsea. McKayla, a senior at Hasbrouck Heights High School, and her friends Lucia, Ava, Erick, Darlene, Maria, Ciara, from Bloomfield High School treated their elders as they might a grandparent.
The Prom started with a few brief words from the amazing Kyisha and from the new Executive Director, Kevin Brendlen. A buffet dinner of appetizers, chicken tenders, and penne was served and then, the dancing began!
The senior residents laughed, danced, and smiled their way through music by Leonardo Taylor that ranged from the standards of Frank Sinatra, through seventies songs, disco, and even today’s pop hits. Queen Bey’s “Single Ladies” was a hit with everyone!
A nice bonus a few days before Prom came in the form of a lovely program called GlamourGals. Students from the Bloomfield High School chapter regularly visit the seniors – some of whom don’t get many visitors – to provide companionship, conversation, play games, and do crafts. GlamourGals came to The Chelsea to help the older ladies with hair styling, makeup, and manicures in preparation for the big event. The students, who were mentored and guided by counselors Chelsey Camarito and Jody Sutzela, said they had “a blast” and came to Prom because it was something “we want to do, not [that] we have to do.” The other seniors, some of whom danced the night away, agreed that it was a night to treasure.