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Aging: Some Possible Psychological/Social Issues

Supporting people with an intellectual disability through the “Normal” Aging Process


Aging Persons with an intellectual disability will:

  • Likely affect the daily rhythms of our homes and the community as a whole.
  • Push us to focus even more on building upon, reinforcing and developing their strengths so that their quality of life is enhanced.
  • Have frequent changes in support and residential location and their health records are often inadequate. Consequently, it may take some time to piece together an accurate picture of the individual’s health status.
  • Challenge us to find creative ways for people to continue to do the things they like to do and to continue to have a role in the home.

Other Considerations:

  • Aging takes place earlier with individuals who are intellectually disabled than the general population.
  • In the 21st century, the life expectancy has increased to 66.1 years of age.
  • Individuals who are intellectually disabled account for 3% of older adults.
  • Health needs change as they individual gets older.

Psychological/Social Issues

Psychological/Social Issues possible as the person ages:

  • Decreased social contact – friends and family die- person may withdraw.
  • Reconciliation with past-resolving conflicts, losses, acceptance.
  • Changes in physical appearance may be difficult.
  • Changes in roles/tasks that people can manage can make them feel they have less to contribute.
  • Managing leisure time- more “free time”.
  • Depression relatively common.

Strategies for supporting people with Psychological/Social Issues as the person ages:

  • Provide grief support and encourage existing friendships.
  • Do life review work/life story book and use photographs to help person talk about the past.
  • Help person with grooming and clothes so they can look their best.
  • Help person participate in meaningful ways in daily activities, find new roles and have as much control and choice as possible. Help structure time.
  • Facilitate participation in leisure activities the person likes.
  • Facilitate assessment for and treatment of depression.
  • Advocate for your clients since it is predicated that social services will not be equipped to deal with the increased aging population.
  • Hire qualified staff to perform assessments on anticipated new geriatric population.


  • Not every person will experience all of these changes.
  • Organizations concerned with a particular syndrome or condition may be helpful in providing information helpful for certain individuals.
  • Aging is a spiritual and psychological journey as well as a physical one.

Don’t Forget

  • If we believe that people can continue to grow and to share their gifts as they age we will support them to do so.

Information is compiled from the following:

  • McCracken Intervention Matrix –McCracken -College of Nursing and Health, University of Cincinnati and Lotteman Children, Inc. Covington, KY
  • A Focus on Geriatrics Sharing the Learning St Vincent Hospitals part of Providence Health Care
  • Age Changes and what to do about it Phyllis Kultgen and Peggy Hotz
  • Management Guidelines Development Disability Version 2, 2005.

Original material compiled by Jane Powell of L’Arche Ontario
Adapted with permission from

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