Lonely lives rescued with resocialization A man with cerebral palsy finds friends, happiness through program CARROLL COUNTY SENIOR NEWS


Edward "Glenn" Parsons remembers how his father, a coal miner from West Virginia, brought his family to Maryland after he lost the mining job that had already ruined his lungs.

Glenn Parsons did not go to school, but his mother, a homemaker, taught him to read. He said he misses her greatly, and still wears her wedding band.

Mr. Parsons, 56, who lives in Manchester, has cerebral palsy. His parents cared for him for more than 50 years.

He didn't have any friends, but he was loved, he said. His father would tell him stories of life and death in the coal mines, and would let Glenn watch him build houses.

In 1989, Glenn Parsons' mother died, at the age of 73. His father died soon thereafter.

Without brothers and sisters, Mr. Parsons was left alone. There was talk of putting him into an institution.

But Maryland's Developmental Disabilities Administration helped him find a care-giver and a spot in Carroll County's senior resocialization program. That program helps older residents who have been out of circulation get used to society again.

The resocialization program takes place at the Westminster Senior Center, which has the standard recreational and meal facilities found at all Carroll County senior centers.

"Boy, I like it here," Mr. Parsons said Friday, during a resocialization session. "When I stayed home, there was nothing to do. Now I come here; I can do anything."

The program helps "anybody who may not have been socially active for a while," said Charlene A. Fischer, program coordinator.

One of its success stories, she said, was an 85-year-old woman who had become depressed after her husband died and she lost her home. Through the program, she joined some classes, found new friends, built a new life and moved on.

Some of the people in theresocialization program may have become isolated through years of caring for disabled family members.

Others, such as Mr. Parsons, have disabilities.

The Carroll County resocialization program was founded 10 years ago as a national pilot program, the first in the nation to receive state funding for this kind of work, Ms. Fischer said.

It offers a variety of activities to meet the wide range of needs of its clients, Ms. Fischer said.

Some clients are totally independent, and like to take advantage of the senior center's regular ceramics classes, poker games and other activities.

Others need more structure, she said, and are helped by aides, who work with them on puzzles, crafts and other activities that stimulate the mind and improve eye-hand coordination.

During the 1992 presidential election, Ms. Fischer said, participants often discussed the race.

Some registered to vote, and some "voted for the first time in their lives."

Mr. Parsons said that through the resocialization program, he has learned to draw and paint.

He visited Washington, D.C., to see the cherry blossoms and have a picnic.

He has been to see "Phantom of the Opera," and he went went to camp at the Hashawha Environmental Center.

Now, he even borrows the resocialization program's computer to write short stories.

He said he is working on a "real hot" romance.

And he now has friends.

"I've made a friend of her, and her and her," he said of women in the room.

Ms. Fischer said the state Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, pays for the program, which has slots for nine people.

The number of elderly developmentally disabled is growing, as advances in medicine help people live longer.

"There are a lot of senior developmentally disabled people still living with parents," and many of those parents are now in their 80s, she said.

"There need to be more programs like this," Ms. Fischer said.

Mr. Parsons said that the first time he attended the program, he didn't think he would like it.

He added, "Boy, I was wrong."

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