Retirees at Valentine’s Day ‘Senior Prom’ reflect on love

Prom, Green Acres Retirement Community, Wayland
Don Smith dances with a Wayland High School National Honor Society student at Senior Prom at Green Acres Retirement Community. (Feb. 14, 2017)


WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — It was a very special Valentine’s Day at Green Acres Retirement Living Community in Wayland as it held its first “Senior Prom.”

The lobby area was turned into a dance floor as music played. It wasn’t the school gym, but the formal wear and colorful dance moves were just as festive as a high school prom.

“It’s something, isn’t it?” 83-year-old Marilyn Stafford said of the prom. “You never know what they’re going to do next.”

Valentine’s Day brought her a flashback of her husband, Harry, who died last year. The two had been married for more than 60 years.

“He’s been my soulmate,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without him. Life goes on, that’s the way it is.”

Prom, Green Acres Retirement Community, Wayland
Marilyn Stafford (left on bench) and a friend at Senior Prom at Green Acres Retirement Community in Wayland. (Feb. 14, 2017)

But Stafford isn’t alone. She says everyone at Green Acres has become her family.

Meanwhile, 72-year-old Don Smith was experiencing his first prom.

“I love it,” he said.

Amidst the decorations and the flurry of feet on the dance floor, couple Duane and Betty Ryan were hand in hand, not able to dance because Betty, 84, uses a wheelchair.

Prom, Green Acres Retirement Community, Wayland
Duane and Betty Ryan at Senior Prom at Green Acres Retirement Community in Wayland. (Feb. 14, 2017)

After being married nearly 25 years, they have some simple advice:

“Just gotta hang in there and give a little bit,” Duane Ryan said.

For Stafford, the party was a reminder of a good motto for life no matter what stage you’re in: Keep dancing.

“You got to look ahead. You can’t look behind,” she said.

Students from the National Honor Society at Wayland High School helped with the dance. For many of the 17- and 18-year-olds, seeing people in their 70s and 80s celebrating love was an inspiration:

“For how long they’ve been together, they can go through anything,” Wayland High School senior Courtney Johnson said.