Tom Nuss and painters around a table

Visually Impaired Artist, at 91, Enriches Lives through Painting Classes at Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne

News | August 25, 2023 | Reading Time 4:00 Minutes

Several residents of Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne senior living community gather weekly to participate in art classes taught by one of their fellow residents.

The class is unusual in one significant respect: their teacher, Tom Nuss, is legally blind.

“I have about 10% vision,” says Nuss, 91, who, nonetheless, is teaching a small group to paint sailboats, barns, and anything else that strikes his or their fancy.

Nuss, who worked for 45 years for Navistar International, started painting in the 1960s when he took classes at an art school in Fort Wayne.

“I always liked to paint,” he says. “I had some illustrations in my head that I wanted to put down on canvas.”

Painting, he found, was a means of relaxation, and he enjoyed painting scenes featuring covered bridges, mills and other items found in rustic country settings.

Over the years, his vision deteriorated due to glaucoma and detached retinas. But that didn’t stop him from wanting to share his hobby with others.

Today, he sketches a drawing for his classes, and then his students copy and paint it with acrylic paint.

“I visualize it in my head, and then I do a sketch that I can see if I hold it real close,” he says.

He also helps students unleash their inner Picassos by giving them painting tips. They are currently working on paintings of a sailboat.

“I tell them what brushes to use or suggest what colors to use,” he says. He also encourages his students and lets them know it is never too late to learn a new skill.

“I will tell them, ‘I’m sure Rembrandt’s first painting wasn’t hanging in an art gallery, and they should do it for their own enjoyment,” he says.

Nuss is right to encourage his fellow residents to learn a new skill, especially since studies show that challenging your brain can slow cognitive aging.

Even while they are doing it for their own fun, Nuss says he and his students, who meet in the craft room at Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne, also like to exhibit their artwork in the community occasionally.

“We have quite a few paintings, and we’ll put them on display,” he says.

Nuss, and his wife, Mary Ann, who passed away last year, lived in independent living at Heritage Pointe for 12 years before moving into an assisted living apartment, where Nuss now lives. He has high praise for the staff at Heritage Pointe, who encourage residents to participate in art classes and other activities that enrich their minds and lives.

“We have an activity director who’s very good,” he says. “Whatever one wants to do –within limits—is possible. They are very supportive.”

He’s also happy with the care he receives at Heritage Pointe, which is allowing him to continue to create artwork and teach.

“With my limitations, they take very good care of me,” he says. “They clean my apartment. They do my laundry and assist me with my bathing needs. If I need to go to the doctor, they arrange for a medical van.”

Still able to continue to do what he loves; he says his overall assessment of assisted living at Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne is that “it is a premiere senior living community.”

Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne

Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne is conveniently located just off Interstate 469. The senior living community is on a beautiful campus featuring scenic trails, a community garden, four lakes, a community clubhouse, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and more. Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne offers vibrant independent living in freestanding villas and apartments. Assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, and long-term skilled care are provided on the same campus, thus offering a complete continuum of care, also known as Life Plan. Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne is owned and operated by The United Methodist Memorial Home, an Indiana non-profit founded in 1907. To learn more about Heritage Pointe of Fort Wayne, visit