UA freshmen Sasha Petkovic, left, and Milena Carrera decorate valentines for tonight’s dance with residents of a Tucson retirement community. “Everyone is totally excited about it,” says Petkovic.

Carol Ann Alaimo / Arizona Daily Star

Tonight, on an evening dedicated to lovers, UA student Sasha Petkovic will don a red dress and go dancing with a gentleman four times her age.

In fact, she may take a few of them for a twirl when she and other freshmen spend the evening with 80-somethings at a north-side retirement community.

About 30 members of University of Arizona’s Freshman Class Council, mostly 18-year-olds, will descend on Atria Campana del Rio on East River Road for a Valentine’s Day dance with its residents.

A live band will pump out 1940s tunes in the entertainment lounge while residents sip champagne, pink wine or nonalcoholic “sweetheart punch.”

The frosh plan to get decked out for the occasion: young women in red dresses and young men in shirts and ties.

“Everyone is totally excited about it,” said Petkovic, 18, of Lake Havasu, whose time spent with a grandparent while growing up led to a lasting fondness for older folk.

“We wanted to do something that would be fun for everyone instead of the traditional ‘going out on a date,’ ” said Petkovic, who is pursing an interdisciplinary degree in philosophy, politics, economics and law.

“We thought it would be great to reach out to an older generation,” added Milena Carrera, 18, a Tempe native studying pre-nursing.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good time and receive some of their wisdom,” said Carrera, who, with Petkovic, oversees the freshman group’s philanthropic efforts.

UA students — sorority and fraternity members and other groups — have been regular participants for years at such parties, said Darlene Gregg, the facility’s events director.

The retirement community also collaborates with the UA on some health studies involving seniors, she said.

Gregg said the retirees love to interact with the university crowd.

“They were once that age, too,” she said.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or 573-4138.