SOUTH SHORE: ‘Senior’ prom

Published on: July 3, 2018

78-Year-old surprises sweetheart

with engagement ring at Senior prom

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

Jaime Rodriguez, 78, and Luz Rivera, 69, celebrated at Hillsborough County’s Senior Prom this year by getting engaged in front of the crowd of almost 600. The two met at one of the county’s senior centers about a year ago.

There were big doings at Hillsborough County’s Senior Prom this year.

Luz Rivera, 69, and Jaime Rodriguez, 78, got engaged in front of the crowd of nearly 600 attending the annual event for active senior adults.

“That was big news last week,” said Frances Duran Brea, general manager for the county’s Aging Services, the county program that has staged the prom for 23 years now. She serves as emcee for the event and remembers a year ago when Rodriguez came to her seeking advice.

“He said he liked her. He was like a teenager. This 78-year-old man was asking me for advice on how to court her,” Brea said with a laugh. “For six months they were friends. Then, right before the prom, he bought the ring and wanted to present it to her, but he wanted me to be a part of it. 

“I said why don’t they do it at the prom, half kidding. He said he would love that, and it took off from there.”

With Luz seated in the “queen’s chair,” Rodriguez approached with the microphone, asked her to stand, said some beautiful words and gave her the ring.

The couple danced along with their peers to island music befitting the theme of West Indies Island Carnival Jam.

“It was very beautiful,” Brea recalled.

Rodriguez wasn’t even nervous, she said. “If he was, it didn’t show. He has a big personality, and he’s kind of a jokester.”

Organized by Hillsborough County Aging Services, the 2018 Senior Prom was held at The Regent in Riverview. The crowd of about 560 was the largest to date and as usual, a king and queen were crowned.

The theme for this year’s senior prom for active seniors, was West Indies Island Carnival Jam, and participants dressed for the occasion during the event at The Regent in Riverview.

Because of the island theme, each senior center was asked to represent a different island nation. Nineteen of the 23 centers across the county participated.

“We have a committee within Aging Services that decorated, and we made it look like a small island,” Brea said. “We always choose a different theme. Last year was the Orient Express and we decorated with Chinese lanterns and had a dragon perform.”

This year’s prom was catered by Jerk Hut, which served up jerk chicken, rice and peas and braised cabbage, with Jamaican bread pudding for dessert.

Some people went all out for their costumes, complete with feather headdresses. “It is a semi formal event, but with the theme, they really have fun with the costumes,” Brea said.

“Our focus is health and wellness and keeping older adults active and independent. It’s a fun event but it’s also held because a lot of studies show socialization has many benefits,” she said. “They socialize with their own peers instead of competing with a younger crowd.

Regulars from 19 of the county’s 23 senior centers participated, with each representing a different island nation.

 “We have dances and Saturday events with some centers hosting regular square dance and line dance events.

“The prom is a time for them to come and experience new cultures, because we are so diverse. They really enjoy lots of dancing and the different cuisine and a lot of door prizes, which are all donated.”

While the senior centers are open to all active adults 50 and over, those still in the work force tend to come to evening and weekend events while those in their late 60s up to their 90s come during the week, she said.

For information about Hillsborough County Aging Services, call 813-272-5250.

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