We decorated the room with hearts galore. The residents arrived dressed up and ready to dance. The DJ kicked things off with some old favorites like September by Earth, Wind and Fire and Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain, while volunteers, including college students and our community neighbors, served refreshments and chatted with residents. First-time volunteers might have thought that the evening would be pretty laid back–maybe they imagined some Frank Sinatra and the foxtrot. They certainly didn’t expect a boisterous party to break out. But within minutes, seniors were up and dancing—and even jumping!—as dance hits like Twist and Shout blasted from the speakers. Volunteers and staff joined in the fun, with laughter and friendly banter permeating the room.
The young adult volunteers who normally go to college parties could not believe the energy in the room. They danced for hours with our 70- and 80-year-old residents, some of whom set their canes asides while others brought their walkers right onto the dance floor. On a frosty February evening, our community was filled with so much warmth and energy that we had to open exit doors to cool people off!
My job as the volunteer program manager is to bring volunteers into our community to spend time with our residents and to forge mutually beneficial bonds. Whether it’s on a weekly basis or through onetime events, I strive to find creative ways to engage people and make our communities “village centers.”
For both older and younger adults who could be experiencing loneliness, we need spaces to connect, to laugh, and to learn from each other. Days later, residents and volunteers were still telling me how much that Thursday night meant to them.
If you’re interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And maybe I’ll see you at our next dance party!