Thumbs up at over ninety: photo of Signal's Outreach Worker Jo and Betty outside a stately home

Thumbs up at over ninety!

Photo of Betty giving the thumbs up sign at over ninety

Betty enjoying the outdoors

As the UK marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, we turn to a woman who was born just a few months after Armistice Day. Betty has not only lived through the major historical events of the past century, she has also lived as part of a linguistic and cultural minority.

Betty was born profoundly deaf. When she was born, her father was a soldier missing in action, only to return to the family later on after the end of the First World War. Betty was one of nine children and went to a school for the deaf in Manchester.

She is now a widow, after her husband Bob sadly passed away some years ago, and her sister Dorothy is her only surviving sibling. Betty communicates through British Sign Language, although, her niece notes that Betty and Dorothy have developed their own language, too, through actions.

Betty lives in supported accommodation in Shropshire, where Signal’s Outreach Worker Joanne Rose is able to act as a bridge between the hearing and non-hearing worlds. Jo, who is herself deaf and communicates through sign and speech, visits Betty regularly and the two have built up a deep trust.

Betty’s family had noticed her becoming isolated and withdrawn

Before Jo’s involvement and before Betty moved into her current accommodation, her family had noticed her becoming isolated and withdrawn. She was not able to mix with people and communicate, and she spent a lot of time sleeping and felt very down. Her family found it hard to make conversation with her, and they were concerned about her emotional as well as her physical wellbeing.

Jo has opened up a whole new world that has stimulated Betty mentally

However, Jo has opened up a whole new world that has stimulated Betty mentally. She has given Betty the ability to get out and mix, to do the things that someone without a hearing and speech disability would do naturally, and her family has watched Betty becoming upbeat and happy again.

Betty’s family has watched her become upbeat and happy again

Betty is able to talk over anything with Jo that concerns her. Through Jo, she is able to communicate with her family – and her family with her. Jo also keeps Betty’s family updated by text message, and accompanies Betty to appointments with the doctor, optician, dentist and chiropodist.

Jo ensures that the level of care that the family has in place with the care providers is maintained, when the family is not there to observe. If Jo sees something that needs attention, she alerts the family, who live some distance away, and she is able to intervene.

Jo holds the family’s values and Betty’s needs at heart.

Headline photograph: Signal’s Outreach Worker Jo, Betty and friend Rita on a sign language users’ excursion to a stately home.

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