RECOMMENDATIONS FROM EXPERIENCE
Mary C. Howell
Most people with mental retardation can be expected to make use of professional services at some time during their old age. Even those who have always lived at home are likely to need residential placement as family caregivers age. If capabilities for productive work decline, alternative daytime occupations are needed. A range of healthrelated services may be indicated, intermittently or on a regular basis.
In past years, there have been few services well suited to the needs of people with mental retardation who are old. 1 Service providers who are familiar with young people with mental retardation plead unfamiliarity with the characteristics of people who are old and, conversely, service providers experienced with the needs of old people may resist requests for service for clients who have been labeled as mentally retarded.
It is true that state departments of mental retardation (or their equivalents) are obliged to provide services for their clients of every age. Similarly, the Older Americans Act designates its funds for services for needy people aged sixty or older. 2 Policy planners sometimes propose that acceptance of these old and developmentally disabled clients into "generic service systems" (for those who are mentally retarded or for those who are old) is all that is needed to resolve the present problems of service inadequacy. 3 Our experience in the Aging Project, however, suggests that several caveats are in order.
Age segregation is no more a good arrangement for people with mental retardation than it is for people who are not labeled mentally