Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

This opportunity to participate in, teach, and enjoy fully elaborated relationships with our clients is a reward of the work we do. And it is hardly a one-way street. What we gain from these relationships is rich and immensely valuable. "Every encounter between persons is an exchange of gifts."


27
A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR POLICY AND SERVICE DESIGN

Bruce Blaney

In the development of an aging policy in the field of mental retardation, one overarching reality must be kept in mind: the norms that govern our society's perception and treatment of its citizens who are old are rooted in powerfully negative stereotypes that have created "the old" as a devalued group. 1 In this process, the norms associated with old age have been particularly decisive: (1) The presumption that an older chronological age entails departure from major societal roles-- especially from occupational roles, but also from central participation in family and community life 2, 3; and (2) the belief that the needs of people who are old, both emotional and practical, are most effectively addressed outside the social mainstream and in congregate settings with others who are old. 4 At the core of the modern experience of aging is the assumption that a certain chronological age is synonymous with biological decline. 5

The "old" have been defined as a biologically bonded peer group, who have quite naturally come together in their shared fate. 6 The impact of these norms is the nearly universal belief that it is acceptable for a person to lose most of his valued roles and to be socially segregated on reaching a certain age. As Alex Comfort observed:

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