Arts for the Aging (www.aftaarts.org) engages older adults in the Metro area—many of whom live with physical and cognitive challenges—in participatory arts programs in dance, music, visual art and storytelling. Professional teaching artists design and lead customized programs, including multidisciplinary and intergenerational experiences. Programs are conducted in senior and community centers, residential senior living facilities and cultural centers.
Serves: Metro region
What a donation buys:
• $250 underwrites two teaching artists facilitating a multidisciplinary program in the community.
• $1,000 supports a six-session program series customized for older adults in a specific community setting.
• $10,000 makes possible 18 months of weekly arts-based programs for older adults who are socially isolated and might not otherwise have access to high-quality arts experiences.
• One day or ongoing: Assist with special events and programs, including AFTA’s annual gala and tennis fundraiser.
• Student Service Learning hours
Judith Bauer dances with seniors at the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Albert & Helen Misler Adult Day Center in Rockville. Photo by Michael Ventura.
Engaging seniors through shows and lessons
By Joe Zimmermann
When Judith Bauer gets other seniors to dance, she says she can sometimes feel them really come to life. “You start out and you’re initiating the dancing, you’re maybe holding somebody’s hands and moving them,” Bauer says. “And then there’s that magic moment when they take over and they start initiating the movements. It’s profound.”
Bauer, a 81-year-old Washington, D.C., resident, took up dancing only recently and now volunteers with Quicksilver Senior Improv Dance Company, a group of older dancers who put on interactive performances for seniors in retirement communities and nursing homes. Quicksilver is one program offered by Arts for the Aging, a Rockville-based nonprofit that provides art lessons and activities to older residents in the D.C. area.
Arts for the Aging programs bring teaching artists—some older themselves, some not—to 26 centers in the region to guide senior citizens in lessons on dancing, drawing, painting, poetry, music and other arts. Almost all of the classes are free and taught in groups of about 20 students. Janine Tursini, director and CEO of Arts for the Aging, says the organization’s programs help older adults remain active and healthy.
At a recent Arts for the Aging musical event with members from Friends Club, an Alzheimer’s program that meets at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, a dozen older men traded stories about their musical interests and listened to Bethesda resident Anthony Hyatt play violin.
David Belkin, a Friends Club volunteer from Bethesda, says events like this provide the men with a place to have fun and relax around each other. “There’s a sense that if you have Alzheimer’s, you can’t speak up in public,” Belkin says. “But here, people are comfortable. There’s no judgment.”
Bauer says that for many people her age and older, art is something they finally have time for, and Arts for the Aging allows them to explore their creative side as they may not have been able to in the past. “We worked, we raised families, we took a backseat in our own interests, in our own development,” Bauer says. “Now we have the opportunity [to get involved], and Arts for the Aging provides for so many of these opportunities.”