Prom Time — for Senior Citizens

Inside The Samarkand's Annual Dance for Young-at-Heart Residents

Doug and Marge Johnston

“She was a farm girl from Saskatchewan. I was a farm boy from Winnipeg. We just had to dance together,” said Doug Johnston, 87, of his first dance with his now-wife, Marg, 89.

That first dance — a fast one, Doug said, with a smirk — wasn’t at his and Marg’s high school prom but it set the pace for where they are now…and where they were last week: the Senior Prom at The Samarkand, an assisted-living retirement community above Oak Park.

Doug and Marge Johnstone

Held for the retirement community’s assisted living and skilled-nursing residents, the prom featured all of the trappings of a high school soiree: desserts and punch, a photo booth, and DJ-spun music. In a throwback to the prom-goers’ own high school days, songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Glenn Miller filled the room.

“This brings back some memories,” said Margaret Peterson, smiling as the music played and reflecting on the prom she attended as a high school senior. Seated next to Peterson, Betty Bell wasn’t able to go to her original senior prom because of her mother being sick, but she felt glad to have a second shot at the experience. “I’m glad I came,” she said. “This is a lot of fun.”

Ken and Ardyce McLeod

Ken and Ardyce McLeod were having a good time, too, albeit from their table. “Neither of us likes dancing, but we like watching,” Ardyce said, her tiara sparkling. “We both have left feet,” added Ken, laughing. They both have ears for music, too, taking an avid interest in this reporter’s iPhone, asking to listen to Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” on the YouTube app. “I get a kick out of her,” said Ken, smiling at his wife. The McLeods will be married for 53 years next month.

Married for 65 years and residents of The Samarkand for 15 years, the Johnstons came to Tuesday’s formal in their matching finest — a red sweater and pants for him, and a red beaded gown for her. From 1960 until just last year, Doug and Marg were dance teachers, a lifelong passion that Doug said has kept them healthy. That first, fast dance brought them together, but it was Marg’s alleged coup — she said, laughing, that Doug tends to “embroider” this story — that sealed the deal.

After that first dance, Doug said, Marg asked him to go skating with her and her coworkers. But when Doug showed up for the group event, Marg was the only one there. “They didn’t show up for some reason,” he said, with a tilt of his head and twinkle in his eye. “That’s a true story.”

And then, just like that, Doug went to dance with Marg all over again.

To learn more at The Samarkand retirement community, see


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