Skip to main content Accessibility help

Growing Older with an Intellectual Disability

  • Lindsay Gething (a1)


Both the life expectancy and numbers of older people with intellectual disabilities are growing. Until recently, ageing with a disability had not been a major consideration for Australian policy makers and service providers. The situation was similar in countries such as the United States of America and United Kingdom where, unlike aged care, disability policy and practice had not evolved to meet needs. Ageing with long standing disability has now been specified by the Australian government as a priority area. This paper reports results of consultations held with consumers, their organisations, service providers and government in order to explore quality of life and service provision issues for people with long standing disabilities. It reports these issues and uses themes emerging from consultations to structure previously published information specifically related to ageing with an intellectual disability. Seven broad themes are discussed which relate to: life experiences; attitudes, skills and knowledge of consumers; attitudes skills and knowledge of community and service providers, the nature of service provision; the ageing of family care givers; financial security; and ageing in place. It is concluded that disadvantages and barriers experienced throughout life influence well being and quality of life in old age.


Corresponding author

Lindsay Gething Ph.D, Professor of Community, Disability and Ageing Studies, Community Disability and Ageing Program, Research Centre for Adaptation in Health and Illness, Building MO2, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email:


Hide All
Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled (ACROD). (1997). Action plan on ageing and disability. ACROD Newsletter, July–08, 8.
Ashman, A. F. (1993). Older persons with intellectual disability. Interaction, 6, 1525.
Ashman, A., & Suttie, J. (1995). Changing existing services for older people with an intellectual disability. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 16, 335348.
Askham, J. (1997). Supporting caregivers of older people. An overview of problems and priorities. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 17, 57.
Bigby, C. (1992). Access and linkage: Two critical issues for older people with an intellectual disability in utilising day activity and leisure services. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 18, 95109.
Bigby, C. (1997). Later life for adults with intellectual disability: A time of opportunity and vulnerability. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 2, 97108.
Bigby, C. (1998). The intersection of aged and disability policies: Decisions for the future. Proceedings of the Disability and Ageing Conference. Perth: Disability Services Commission, 1524.
Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. (1997). Assessment and entry to nursing homes and hostels of young people with disabilities. Canberra: Aged and Community Care Division.
Cooper, S. A. (1999). The relationship betrween psychiatric and physical health in elderly people with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 43, 5460.
Crewe, N. M. (1990). Ageing and severe physical disability: Patterns of change and implications for services. International Disability Studies, 13, 158161.
Edgar, D. (1995). Sharing the caring: Rethinking current policies. In Weeks, W. & Wilson, J. (Eds.) Issues facing Australian families. Second edition, 274302. Melbourne: Longman.
Gething, L. (1999). We're growing older too: Quality of life and service provision issues for people with a long standing disability who are ageing. Sydney: The University of Sydney.
Koenig, B. R. (1995). Aged and Dementia Care Issues for People with an Intellectual Disability: Volumes I–III. Brighton, South Australia: Minda.
Koenig, B. R. (1999). The issue of ageing and associated decline for persons with an intellectual disability. Paper presented at the 35th Annual Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability, Sydney, 09, 16.
Kunkel, S. R., & Applebaum, R. A. (1992). Estimating the prevalence of long term disability for an ageing society. Journal of Gerontology, 47, S253S260.
Moylan, M.Dey, P., & McAlpine, E. (1995). A national research project examining the placement of younger people with a disability in nursing homes for the aged: A report to the Disability Services Committee. Sydney: Ageing and Disability Department.
Office on Disability. (1999). People with disabilities who are ageing: Summary of literature review. Paper presented at the “Linkages and Lifestyles workshop”: Service provider and government perspectives on neiu approaches to supporting people with disabilities who are ageing. Canberra: Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled
Ozanne, E., Bigby, C.Forbes, S., Glennan, C., Gordon, C., & Fyffe, C. (1998). Myer Foundation project: Reframing opportunities for people with an intellectual disability. Proceedings of the Disability and Ageing Conference, Attachment 1. Perth: Disability Services Commission.
Payne, T., & Erlich, F. (1998). Coping at home. Sydney: Carers NSW Inc.
Schofield, H. (1998). Family caregivers: Disability, illness and ageing. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Shalock, R. L. (1993). Viewing quality of life in the larger context. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 18, 201208.
Shean, R. (1998). Opening address. Proceedings of the Disability and Ageing Conference. Perth: Disability Services Commission, 13.
Smith, G. C. (1999). Ageing families of adults with mental retardation: Patterns and correlates of service use, need, and knowledge. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 102, 1326.
Stoller, E.P., & Gibson, R.C. (1994). Worlds of difference: Inequality in the ageing experience. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Zimmerman, M., Israel, B. A., Shultz, A., & Checkoway, B. (1992). Further explorations in empowerment theory: An empirical analysis of psychological empowerment. American journal of Community Psychology, 20, 707727.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed