Two deaf residents at Peninsula Villages have inspired staff and other residents to learn Auslan, the Australian sign language, through regular language classes hosted at the aged care village.
Jan Morley and Maureen Stewart, aged 86 and 87 respectively, met at the age of eight at the NSW Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind.
They have been close friends ever since and moved to Peninsula Villages in 2020 and 2023, respectively, to be together and support one another.
“We met our future husbands at the school,” Jan said.
“We both married deaf men, and we had wonderful marriages.
“We’re both widows now, but we still remain as close friends at the Village.”
Maureen said she decided to move to Peninsula Villages earlier this year so she could be close to Jan and they could provide each other with a little extra support.
Both women are active members of the Peninsula Villages community, participating in weekly activities such as bingo, gardening and arts and crafts.
They communicate using Auslan and have been teaching staff and other residents how to sign since April, when they organised weekly sign language classes.
“We love using Auslan,” Maureen said.
“It’s our way of communicating and it’s a beautiful language.”
“We’re so happy that staff and other residents are learning Auslan too,” Jan said.
“It means that we can communicate with them better and they can understand us.”
The two women were born deaf and grew up in a world where sign language was not widely accepted.
They both faced challenges in their education and in their personal lives, but have always been determined to live independent and fulfilling lives.
Leisure and Lifestyle Advocate, Karen Evans, and Care Worker, LeeAnn Medina, were inspired by Maureen and Jan’s determination and their love of Auslan.
They decided to attend the sign language classes so they could better communicate with residents who are hard of hearing.
“We’re so grateful to Maureen and Jan for teaching us,” they said.
“It’s a wonderful way to connect with them and other residents who are hard of hearing or deaf, and to make them feel more at home.”
In July Peninsula Villages engaged Deaf Connect to assist Jan and Maureen in running the weekly classes.
Deaf Connect is the largest whole-of-life service provider for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing Australians.
“We believe that upskilling our staff is essential to providing the best possible care for our residents,” Villages CEO Colin Osborne said.
“By learning Auslan, our staff are able to better communicate with deaf residents and ensure that they feel included and respected.
“We are grateful to Jan, Maureen and Deaf Connect for their assistance in running the weekly classes and we are excited to see how this will improve communication between our staff and residents.”
Peninsula Villages hosts Auslan classes every Thursday afternoon at 1.30pm for staff and residents.