Every Wednesday for the last month or so, a group of about 5-10 seniors varying in age from 79 to 98 at Carmichael Oaks gather for an informal hour-long sign-language class. Taught by 82-year-old Ginger White, the students listen intently to the lesson.
White passes out handouts showing pictures of the signs she wants them to learn over the course of the hour and goes through the list one by one. Going over words like “what, when, where, light and question”, White has the students answer questions using the new vocabulary.
Since White is deaf herself, she has the help of Carmichael Oaks employee Laurie Taylor verbalize what various signs mean if a student has difficulty following along.
Students say how much fun they have with each other. One of them, Lola Chan, 86, said she used some of the signs over Thanksgiving. Hard of hearing, Chan uses a caption phone and looks forward to practicing her skills more often. She spends some of her time watching sign language videos on the Internet to help practice.
“(Signs are) really just the same as the thing is. You’re just showing it,” Chan said.
Another one of the students, Ica, is 98 years old, is legally blind and has arthritis in her hands. She has learned just as much as any of the other students.
Asked why she decided to teach the class at the senior home, White said she wanted a challenge.
The seniors looked around at each other and one just blurted out what was on all their minds: “What? We’re a challenge?”
Then they all started to laugh.
With a chuckle, White held out a zipper, which is her way of telling her students to shut their mouths and listen. “(The zipper) is only for Lola” she said and everybody laughed again.
After the laughter subsided, it was back to work learning more signs.
Students said they enjoy learning a new language and think White is a fantastic teacher.
“She has a good sense of humor. She knows how to deal with us,” one said.
Carmichael Oaks is located at 8350 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael. For more information, call 248-5715.