Aging Adults with Intellectual Disabilities: Perspectives on Emerging Service Concerns
Janicki, Matthew P., The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation
With improved general health status many adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) are living to old age, much like other adults. The World Health Organization has recognized the needs of this older population and identified the challenges they pose for governmental ministries and non-governmental organizations charged with planning, advocacy, financing, and delivery of specialty lifecare services and rehabilitation programs. These challenges include a range of issues normally confronting older adults, such as pensioning and financial security, changes in lifestyles associated with retirement and adaptations to living arrangements and housing, modifications in daily activities and community inclusion, changing physical and sensory abilities, and greater demands for support for aging families and other carers. As older adults with ID may also be affected by latelife or age-related conditions and begin to experience secondary impairments, these challenges may be more pronounced when encountered by NGOs located in countries with developing market economies. In these instances, the onus on promoting healthy aging will fall upon national entities which are responsible for targeting people with disabilities from infancy and childhood, and providing lifelong supports for adolescents, adults, and families.
Ideally, if such efforts are undertaken early, they will lead to actions that can be undertaken to promote better health as people with ID age and ensure that the latter part of their lives are experienced as 'quality of life years.'
Key words: intellectual disabilities, rehabilitation, aging, dementia, planning, Macedonia
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that there are currently 600 million older persons alive today, of which seven to 10 percent are older adults with disabilities. The WHO also estimates that the global population of people aged 60+ and over will be 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2 billion by 2050 and that the proportion of the global population aged 60 will double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050. A number of these adults have an intellectual disability (ID), which may limit their ability to sustain a livelihood and generally function independently within their society. However, the application of new research and use of technological improvements for providing assistance and training is showing that many adults with such disabilities do reach old age and can successfully live independently and have productive lives.
Thus, as the world's population ages and the number of older individuals continues to increase in size, community organizations and government ministries are beginning to confront a new set of challenges associated with proving services to aging people with lifelong disabilities (6). Many of these older people are affected by latelife age-associated conditions or begin to experience secondary impairments to a disability they have had all their lives. Among these older people with lifelong disabilities are a significant number of adults who have an intellectual disability (ID). This particular segment of the world's older population has been recognized by the World Health Organization (1) for special emphasis as its members often pose new challenges for public ministries and non-governmental organizations involved with planning, advocacy, financing, and delivery of specialty care programs. These challenges include changes in lifestyle associated with retirement and adaptations to living arrangements and housing, modifications in activities and community use, new demands due to changing physical and sensory abilities, and greater needs for supports of aging families and other carers. With further advancing age, there are also challenges associated with the onset of age-related diseases, changes in sensory capabilities, the onset of age-associated pathologies (such as dementia), benign decline in both cognitive and physical abilities, and considerations for end-of-life care (2). …