- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

Janine C. Tursini has something to prove. She wants Washington-area seniors to know that creativity knows no age.

Ms. Tursini is the new executive director of Arts for the Aging Inc. (AFTA), a Bethesda nonprofit that works with impaired senior citizens through interactive artistic programs.

“The mission is to provide visual and performing art workshops to seniors in day care centers in the metro area,” said Ms. Tursini, who served as the group’s program director for more than seven years. “They might have dementia or early stages of Alzheimer’s. Our mission is to enhance their lives through the arts.”

AFTA relies on a group of 18 local dancers, musicians, poets, artists and actors to host one-hour workshops at adult day care centers or nursing homes. The point, Ms. Tursini says, is for seniors to take part and be active.

“The response is really phenomenal,” she said. “As you get older, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t give back and you can’t create.”

As executive director, Ms. Tursini will spend much of her time fundraising, researching grants and networking within the community. She also will work closely with Lolo Sarnoff, the 90-year-old Washington artist who founded AFTA in 1988.

AFTA sponsors about 85 workshops per month at 51 senior centers in the area.

Artistic workshops provide health benefits for seniors with psychological or physical impairments, Ms. Tursini said.

“It fosters socialization when we get them dancing together. Dance helps people’s brains and it also helps people’s bodies,” she said. “It enhances their self-esteem if they’re creating a drawing or painting and they start out saying, ‘I’m not an artist and I can’t do this,’ and by the end of the workshop, they’ve created something.”

AFTA President Donald Bliss praised the promotion of Ms. Tursini.

“Janine brings a strong commitment and deep understanding of AFTA’s unique program to her new job,” Mr. Bliss said.

Ms. Tursini said she would like to see AFTA become a national organization.

“I would love to see this program expand beyond this region, putting our model into other communities, teaching other communities how to use the AFTA method,” she said. “Baby boomers are getting older, people are living even longer, and that means there are going to be a lot more people with age-related impairments who will benefit from the services that we offer.”

Before joining AFTA, Ms. Tursini was director of student services at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She also helped put together the Corcoran Gallery’s public programs.

Ms. Tursini said her time at AFTA has been rewarding.

“I love to see the responses in the seniors. I love to see creativity in people who don’t believe they have an artistic side and the way that it makes their lives better,” she said.

Ms. Tursini, 34, lives in the District.

Kara Rowland

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