For more than 20 years, Farmington Hills, Mich.-based nonprofit Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) has provided innovative programs for Deaf and hard of hearing seniors at locations throughout southeast Michigan.
Established by DHIS founder May Booth, the daughter of Deaf parents, the programs provide Deaf and hard of hearing individuals with activities and services that include group education on topics like health care, nutrition and life planning, conducted as needed in American Sign Language (ASL), the native language of deaf persons; picnics, parties and field trips; and individual client assistance, conducted by specially trained case managers.
Above all, these weekly gatherings provide and encourage much-needed socialization, says Robyn Anderson, a State of Michigan certified ASL interpreter and supervisor of DHIS senior programs in Taylor and Monroe, Mich. Like May Booth, Anderson is the daughter of Deaf parents.
"My mother is a strong individual, but as she's now older, I really see the spark that attending our senior programs has given her," says Anderson, who first met DHIS President Linda Booth when Booth was interpreting for Anderson's father at a medical appointment.
Linda Booth, May Booth's daughter, observed how fluent Anderson was in American Sign Language, having grown up as the eldest child of Deaf parents, and encouraged her to become a DHIS interpreter. Anderson, formerly an accountant, accepted the invitation and now does ASL interpreting for a living, specializing in health care settings.
"I started signing at 10 months old. Sign language is really my first language as I became the ears for my parents," Anderson notes. "In fact, my mom made sure to turn on records or the television so that I would hear and learn English."
A vital service. Several years after joining DHIS as an interpreter, Anderson also assumed her volunteer duties at the Taylor and Monroe programs. At the time, she was fortunate enough to receive her training in the senior program from May Booth, who has now passed away.
The Taylor program, in particular, meets every Wednesday at the William Ford Senior Activities Center. Attendees can have a nourishing, low cost lunch; hear speakers, a recent one being a representative from the Attorney General's office addressing protection against identity theft, with Anderson interpreting; or go on trips to places like the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Jiffy Mix in Chelsea or Frankenmuth.
Help with medical appointments remains high on the list of needs for Deaf seniors served by DHIS.
"It is extremely important for deaf individuals to know what the doctor is saying and in being able to tell the doctor what they feel in their own words," Anderson says. "I really enjoy working with the deaf. I know I am helping someone wherever I go. It's very rewarding to be someone's voice and ears."
Despite a strong legacy of service to Deaf seniors, at present, the Taylor program is facing a funding crunch.
"We are in the process of identifying a funding source for next year's program in Taylor, as we currently are operating the program without any," says DHIS president Linda Booth.
For more information on Deaf services for seniors at the DHIS satellite sites throughout southeast Michigan or to consider a donation to the senior programs, please call (248) 473-1888 or visit the DHIS web site: www.dhisonline.org.