A sign of friendship

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DANVILLE, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Learning a new language is not easy, but residents of a continuing care community have taken it upon themselves to do just that. They want to better connect with a fellow resident.

A sign of friendship. Residents of Maria Joseph Manor in Danville are taking friendship to a whole new level. Every week and a half, they meet in the activities room to learn sign language. But they’re not just taking these lessons for fun.

“I feel that the more of us learn sign language, the more we can communicate with her, which is ideal,” resident Anna Mae Anderson said.

Residents are learning a new language to be able to communicate with fellow resident Janice Carpenter, who was born deaf. She says her family never learned to sign. Instead, Janice learned to lip read. Even then, Janice was not involved in conversation. They could only communicate in brief sentences.

“There are times of frustration when she didn’t understand what was going on, especially in a family gathering. She would feel isolated,” Elrica Swank, Janice’s niece-in-law said.

Janice was determined to live as normal as she could. She attended the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, worked at a dress factory and eventually met a man and got married. She moved to Maria Joseph Manor in July. Her family member teaches the class.

“It’s their daily routine. Communication is everything so if we cannot communicate with someone we can’t get them to be involved. We can’t help them if they need assistance,” Swank said.

Communication is key to making Maria Joseph Manor feel like home for its residents. Janice is happy about her fellow residents learning sign language.

“She says very good. And I want to add that you’re also happy that the people here wanted to learn sign language to communicate with you,” Swank said.

The Maria Joseph Manor is planning to hold these sign language classes for as long as they can.

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