In 1986, researchers at the National Institutes of Health approached Lolo Sarnoff, a sculptor and a founding Trustee of a small D.C. gallery called the Art Barn, to provide art workshops for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Lolo agreed and soon observed that art in every form was beneficial to the moods of most. Reports by nurses showed less agitation and aggressive behavior, as well as lingering positive effects in patients even after they left the Art Barn.
In 1988, Lolo — then 72 — founded Arts for the Aging to continue that promising work. Now AFTA is recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as a pioneering arts program for older adults, and a model for excellence in life-long learning and creative aging.
True to the founder’s innovative vision, AFTA gives older adults — especially those who are frail and vulnerable — a sense of healing, self-worth and independence.
On November 9, 2014, at age 98, Lolo Sarnoff passed away. She had a lilting and practical way of talking about becoming an “angel” some day. Now she has her wings! All of us here at Arts for the Aging — our board, staff, teaching artists, volunteers and many others — we miss her so. Each year AFTA bestows the Lolo Sarnoff Founder’s Award on an individual to commemorate the founder’s pioneering vision and that of others who carry her spirit.
Read more about Lolo Sarnoff’s remarkable life.