"Prom night" puts a smile on the faces of Florida's seniors

FORT WALTON BEACH — It’s never too late to go to the senior prom.

In the middle of Sunday’s storm, seniors got dressed up and enjoyed an evening of dinner, dancing and live entertainment at WaterVue for the inaugural Senior Prom, a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Hope Matters.

Maryann Makekau, founder of Hope Matters, came on board with the idea for a senior prom for senior citizens after years of hosting monthly memory cafes around Okaloosa County. Every month, a select few restaurants open up their doors to people facing memory loss to give them an afternoon of carefree socializing. Makekau works to keep the meetings free so that there is one less burden for families.

Tish Griffin organizes transportation for about 10 residents from Brookdale Senior Living in Destin. Over time, she said she saw a significant change in the camaraderie among residents.

“It’s a highlight for the residents,” she said. “They start to take less pain medications and the connects they make help keep the brain more sound. And it’s not just for the residents but their families gain support, too.”

Douglas Horne was the guest speaker of the event. He has been a caretaker for his wife since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. His advice to caretakers is to have empathy.



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