A remarkable 98-year-old is learning sign language so he can better communicate with care home workers wearing facemasks.
Shattering the old adage about old dogs and tricks, George Greig has wowed staff at Balhousie Pitlochry with his eagerness to take on a new skill.
The decorated army veteran has lost some of his hearing and decided that sign language could help him continue to understand what people are saying, now that masks are compulsory amongst care home workers.
It is an emerging issue for the deaf and hard-hearing community, particularly those who rely heavily on lip reading.
DeafScotland chief officer Janis McDonald described Covid-19 as a “communications virus” that is having a significant impact on many people affected by deafness.
She said the use of facemasks muffles voices and covers mouths, preventing lip-reading, while physical distancing creates barriers beyond the effective one-metre range of hearing aids.
George, who moved into the home two years ago, is being given sign language lessons by the activities coordinator Pavlina Pajorova.
“George is our star,” she said. “He makes everyone smile and he is so helpful to others. He keeps active and loves the exercise regimes I do for residents.”
She said he wanted to learn sign language as a new way to ‘talk’ to carers.
“He’s incredibly smart and a quick learner, and I always like to do something different to keep him occupied,” she said. “I have to keep him occupied daily.
“I just turned 30 last week, so he is more than three times my age but he still keeps me on my toes.”
Pavlina, a part-time yoga and Pilates instructor, said: “I got the idea after I’d seen a mother and baby signing ‘I love you’ and I thought it was very sweet, and a nice way to send families messages.”
George was a former member of the medical corps and received a medal from the French government for his involvement in D-Day.
A former senior manager and board member of British Steel, George has been married to his wife Jean for more than 60 years. He said he was looking forward to trying out his new-found skills during garden visits, as Balhousie begins reopening its homes.
The care home company’s residents have also benefited from new iPads and laptops to help keep in touch with loved ones.