Johnny Miller, resident of Arbor Terrace Knoxville, sits down with Melissa to share his experience navigating life as a lifelong member of the Deaf community, his advice for others who are experiencing hearing loss, and his insight into living in an Arbor Community.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone. And welcome in to Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. I hope you are having a wonderful day today and we are so glad that you chose to spend part of it with us. Well, September is National Deaf Awareness Month, and we want to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of our residents. His name is Johnny Miller. He lives at Arbor Terrace of Knoxville in Tennessee, and he has been deaf nearly his entire life. We are honored to have him share his story with us as he describes his life and how he has been able to navigate senior living here recently these past couple of years. Johnny, welcome. And thank you for being here today.

- [Interpreter] Yes. Hello.

- Johnny, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what your life was like growing up and your journey to where you are today.

- I'm from Kentucky, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and I grew up there. My mother and my advisor didn't think I needed to go to a deaf school. I could hear a little bit and I'd be okay to go into a hearing school, but it wasn't true. The teacher that they taught me realized that I needed a special teacher for the deaf and told my mother that Johnny is smart, but I'm not qualified to teach him. I feel like he's wasting his time here in this school and he needs a special teacher. So starting out with me, there was one young lady that came to see me and helped me with my speech. And I had a problem with T-C. I would say C, which is T, and then, you know, anyways, so they were trying to correct that. And I realized that too, my friends, even my brother and sister, would kind of baby-talk to me, Johnny, your mom wants you to go, Johnny, come on. And I kind of became a little self-conscious about that. And I was about 13 years old before, and I would say, stop, stop, and talk to me and learn to, you know, read my lips and let me read your lips and be patient with me. And I realized that, you know, it was probably embarrassing cause people would laugh. And so they understood my feelings. And after that, it was fine, but still I had been having dreams to be successful and go to college. But I couldn't because I didn't have enough education to pass through college. And Gallaudet College, which is a deaf college in Washington, DC, and I feel like something was bothering me and it made me kind of depressed and lose motivation and trying to get that emptying feeling out. So I worked with wood and I built birdhouses and it enjoys me. I decided I wanted to become a paper boy and I would deliver paper every morning. Yeah. It's a lot of learning. And I grew up and I decided with my mother and father to be separated for a while, oh, they were separated for a while. And then they decided to come back together and we left and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. It was a better job opportunity there. And I have two sisters over there that lived back and forth and got to know a little bit about the area. And I like Louisville. So my brother in Florida tried to pull me to go to Florida and it was too hot for me there. I don't like hot weather. So I stayed in Louisville and I'm glad that that's where I stayed. Cause that's where I met my wonderful wife of 37 years before she passed away. She passed away eight years ago. So we met at a church and she was with a lady. This lady dated my brother. So they introduced us. And yeah, that was a Wednesday night. Yes, Wednesday night. Sunday I didn't go to church. I went to go visit my parents. So I came back home Sunday, had to go to work on Monday. And someone had told me that my wife had asked about me and that started our relationship there. We were together for almost one year. And then we got married, my wife and I, we had one daughter and she lives here in Knoxville and she's married and has two boys. I see her often here, better than Kentucky just cause we didn't see each other very much. So it's better now. After a while I go, you want to go eat with me for dinner? And she said, yes, she's looking forward to that.

- Excellent. I am so happy to hear how you have been able to persevere throughout your entire life. It is a wonderful story, and I have to say Johnny, that your memory is excellent and we need to let everybody know that you turned 81 in April. Congratulations. There are many seniors who are experiencing hearing loss really for the first time right now, as we bring attention to National Deaf Awareness Month, what would you say to someone who is finding life to be a bit difficult to navigate after losing their hearing?

- I would share with that person about my experience and I put my faith in God. And don't let anyone make fun of you because you can't speak or you don't know what going to happen or you're behind, you will be okay when you go up and you will learn from that experience. And then after that, you will have wonderful friends. I have a wonderful group. My wife and I, we moved to Louisville. We bought a house there, and we were looking for a church. And the church where we went to before was too far. So we were looking for one that was nearby where we lived. And one Sunday morning we went to this church and we walked in and we told them we were deaf. And they were just shocked, surprised, like, didn't know how to react and gave us more attention. So they moved us up front and we read lips. We told them and they said, oh, you read lips, okay. And we said, yeah. So after worship service, everybody came by and maybe 10 or 12 people came to the front and asked some questions, wanted to learn sign language. So felt kind of welcomed. We did. And we agreed to teach sign language there at the church. And we started deaf ministry there at the church. Just give yourself some time, just be patient, and you will meet a new friend. And you will fall in love with deaf people. And you will want to learn sign language like myself, who has experienced that already, so just be patient. And you will encounter somebody. And that's what happened to me.

- I love that story so much. And I really do think somebody who's watching this, who again, maybe experienced this right now is really going to take that to heart and is going to see a peer in you. And I just thank you for that note to anybody who's watching to just keep on persevering just as you have throughout your entire lives. So thank you for that. Now you are a resident at Arbor Terrace Knoxville in Tennessee. Why did you choose this particular community, Johnny?

- [Interpreter] I was living in Louisville, Kentucky at the time, while I was deciding to move, my advisor had helped me find a community. And this was the spot. So we came here and everyone is super nice to me and I have no problem. The people are very patient. They're super nice. I have no complaint.

- That's amazing. I love to hear that. I know we love to hear that at Arbor, there are many options for seniors at Arbor communities, engagement, opportunities for field trips, if you will, what is something that you enjoy most about the community?

- [Interpreter] There's only a few deafs here nearby, and most of them are with hearing people here too. Some are very nice, patient, and read lips, and very patient with me. Yeah, it's fine. I have no problem. And I get along fine. For activities, I'm not really involved in the activities too much, but I like to take walks. I like to watch TV. Sometimes they have games and a fellowship. Sometimes they have ice cream. It's like I socialize and have ice cream. So that's very nice. If I have my deaf friend and I will ask him to try this place.

- Excellent. Very nice. Glad you are enjoying your time there. And now Johnny, as a member of the deaf community, what are some tips or resources that you can share to help some of our fellow seniors or their family members who might need a little help with their new normal?

- [Interpreter] I would say, enjoy the atmosphere. I know a person is afraid, who sees that I'm deaf and they get afraid to talk to a deaf person. And there's a barrier in the communication there, but I would start to talk to them and they would say, oh, okay, you're talking to me. I feel a little comfortable now. And they know that I read lips. So if they don't understand and we write it down on paper, no problem. All nice people.

- I can see Johnny, you're very laid back and you seem to have a real happy-go-lucky outlook on life. And I love that so much. And I think we can all take something a little bit from that and incorporate it into our own lives. My final question for you, in what ways can we all better support the deaf community?

- [Interpreter] Well, let's see. Well, first of all, I would like to say that my wife and I, we've been involved with our church activity. We would go on missionary trips. We noticed that with a deaf person, they probably don't have a qualified interpreter and maybe trying to share with them that it's very important to have a qualified interpreter that is on their side, like advocating for the deaf and not trying to be uncomfortable and make a deaf person feel uncomfortable. They want to make sure that the interpreter supports them and doesn't make them feel embarrassed or whatever the situation may be. Interpreters who love deaf people and not just become an interpreter because they want to do it. But they need to have the love for the deaf people and deaf people can feel it. It's very important to have deaf people involved with an interpreter or someone that loves and willing to help and communicate and put an understanding there for all of the communication to be sure.

- Well as we wrap up this interview for this particular month where we do try to raise awareness for the deaf community, is there anything else, Johnny, that you would like to share with our viewers?

- [Interpreter] I love the people here that I've met. They all have a positive attitude. Some are grieving because they miss their family or whatever the case may be. Some families don't come to visit very often. So I understand that. I try to cheer them up by saying something that would make them laugh or keep them cheerful.

- I love that. And thank you so much for not only sharing your knowledge with us, but for helping us to understand a little bit more about what life is like for our deaf community. And again, kind of teaching us some ways that we can make someone who is deaf comfortable. And so thank you for sharing that, for sharing your life story with us, Johnny, thank you for joining us today.

- You're welcome.

- Thank you. Now if you would like to learn more about Senior Living Live, please join us at We've got a vault of video information, all about senior living and all of our videos and webinars include closed captioning to allow everyone to not only watch, but also have a voice in the conversation as well through our webinar chatbots. So feel free to join us anytime As always, we thank you for being a part of Senior Living Live. Have a great day, everybody.

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