Lifestyle, Local Resources, People

People in Your N’hood: Never Too Late for an Old Dog to Teach New Tricks

By Gestin Suttle

Jim LaFran does not subscribe to the adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

At age 84, he should know. He’s an accomplished artist who is using his skills to teach seniors how to paint at Providence ElderPlace on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., where he goes for healthcare and activities.

As an art teacher for seniors, LaFran often witnesses students becoming quite accomplished artists in spite of never seriously taking up the activity in their younger years.

LaFrans works in oils, acrylics, pen and ink, and carvings on glass. He likes to draw landscapes, animals and ocean scenes. Although he is a retired upholsterer by trade, LaFran’s artwork has provided him a good living. He participated in a co-op gallery and in community art shows.

LaFran lives in an Assisted Living Facility on contract with Providence ElderPlace and joined the Providence ElderPlace program for healthcare and activities in early 2009. He attends every Thursday for physical therapy following a stroke four years ago.

The therapy helps LaFran regain the strength, function and coordination that he lost on his right side. ElderPlace, a nationally accredited Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) center, is a comprehensive care program that offers health, housing, social service and care coordination solutions to older adults.

Once a month LaFran offers art classes to some of the other seniors enrolled at Providence ElderPlace. His next watercolor class is Thur., Jan. 13. He’ll bring in a sample that he’s painted – usually a landscape of some type – and let the students use that as an example. His students are flourishing, in spite of most having no prior formal art training. “They’re doing remarkably well,” he said. “They have a good time and that’s what matters.”

But that’s no surprise to LaFran, who believes everyone can learn something new, no matter their age. “I learn new stuff everyday and I ain’t no puppy,” LaFran laughed. “They can learn. Anybody can. I never did buy that deal that you can’t teach an ol’ dog new tricks.”

Jim LaFran offers art classes once a month to fellow seniors enrolled at Providence ElderPlace.