Transition to Retirement: A Guide to Inclusive Practice: Adaptations for the Current U.S. Context

Purpose of This Document


Roger J. Stancliffe , PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration.

Sarah A. Hall , PhD, is a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration.

Lynda Lahti Anderson , PhD, MPH is a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration.

The Transition to Retirement (TTR) book/eBook and video (Stancliffe et al., 2013; hereafter the TTR manual) is an evidence-based Australian manual describing how to successfully implement the TTR approach with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to support them to participate in mainstream community groups and volunteering and so develop a socially inclusive retirement lifestyle.

This document is intended to complement the TTR manual by proposing changes and updates to make the TTR approach even more appropriate and relevant to the current context in the United States (U.S.). The TTR approach can be used to support individuals with IDD working in mainstream jobs (competitive or supported employment) or in sheltered employment. Further, the TTR approach can be used to support socially inclusive activities at any age and need not to be tied to either employment or retirement. That said, here we will maintain the focus on paid work and retirement.

This document is structured on a chapter-by-chapter basis, so that our suggested modifications and updates are linked to the specific TTR manual content from each of the 9 chapters and 2 appendices of the manual.

The ideas and information presented here are the responsibility of the authors named above and should not be assumed to represent the views of the authors of the TTR manual.

Background: What is the TTR Approach?

The TTR manual describes how to successfully implement the TTR approach with older workers (aged 45+) with IDD who work in sheltered employment and are considering reducing their work hours or transitioning to full retirement. The TTR approach typically involves dropping a day of work each week and instead participating in a socially inclusive community group or volunteering opportunity of the person’s choice, as a way of gradually transitioning from paid employment to partial or full retirement at whatever pace suits the individual. The TTR approach helps to overcome the common concern among people with IDD that if they retire, they will be socially isolated and take part in few if any meaningful activities.

A notable feature of the TTR approach is that older workers with IDD are supported individually to attend a community group or volunteer. This means that the person goes by themselves. This constraint was intended to ensure that the person with IDD was treated and known as an individual, not simply seen as a member of a group of people with disabilities.

Another key aspect of the TTR approach is that routine day-to-day support of the person with IDD at the community group is given by other group members who volunteer to be mentors. These mentors receive training and support from the TTR coordinator (a disability service staff member). After the first few visits to the community group, the TTR coordinator begins to fade out their presence, so that in time, the person with IDD takes part in the group independently, with as-needed assistance from mentors, but without the presence of an external disability staff member.

The TTR manual was not intended to cover every aspect of planning for retirement, transitioning to retirement, or life in retirement. For example, it does not focus on important retirement-related issues such as financial planning, health insurance, health, and so on. Nor do the TTR planning tools and processes deal with overall retirement, but simply with one important aspect – developing a socially inclusive retirement lifestyle (usually while still working) that can be continued into retirement.

This document should be read in conjunction with the TTR manual which is available in the USA as an eBook from Google Play and Apple Books For example, readers could read a chapter in the TTR manual then read the suggested modifications and updates related to that chapter that are set out below, chapter by chapter.

The eBook includes numerous embedded video clips from the TTR video. The eBook is best viewed on a computer rather than a phone or tablet.

Why Provide Supplementary Information to the TTR Manual?

The core of the TTR approach remains as relevant and effective today as when it was developed in Australia more than a decade ago. However, more recent research findings and implementation in the U.S. context mean that certain adaptations and enhancements may be beneficial. The purpose of this document is to update the TTR manual:

  • to be relevant to the U.S. context
  • to include new information and research that has arisen since the manual was published in 2013 related to issues such as companions, encounters, continuing to work, retirement from mainstream employment, etc.
  • to incorporate changes in technology (e.g., smartphones), transportation (Uber, Lyft; electronic/digital fare payment), online meetings such as Zoom, and other issues
  • to identify video and other resources available in 2023 for use in mentor training, and for informing people with IDD, their families, disability service staff, and members of mainstream community groups about TTR
  • To list (see References and Resources list) relevant IDD research studies and resources that appeared after the TTR manual was published that informed our thinking on important updates and modifications to the TTR approach
  • The TTR manual is evidence based, but most of the research publications providing that evidence were published after the TTR manual became available in 2013, so are not listed in the manual itself. We have included these papers in the References and Resources list at the end of this document.

The TTR manual is based on retirement from sheltered employment. Since the manual was published, there have been several important developments in research:

  • Research and successful intervention on retirement from mainstream jobs and socially inclusive participation in mainstream community groups or volunteering (Brotherton, 2022; Brotherton et al., 2020, 2023)
  • Nowadays, there is a much clearer understanding of encounters (a brief interaction between a person with IDD and a person without IDD) as an important component of social inclusion (Bigby & Wiesel, 2015, 2019, n.d.).
  • Research shows that most people with IDD attend socially inclusive activities (e.g., religious services, community groups) with others (Carter, 2015; Stancliffe et al., 2023), so we need to consider the role of companions for these activities.

These issues are all dealt with in our suggestions below for adaptations and enhancements to the original TTR approach.

U.S. Funding and Service Delivery Issues

Even though the TTR model uses unpaid mentors to provide routine support at community groups, the TTR approach requires a skilled disability staff member described as the TTR coordinator in the TTR manual. Regardless of title, this staff position requires funding to enable the provision of the significant amount of 1:1 support needed in the planning and early implementation stages of the TTR program. Key issues include:

  • How to fund retirement education and planning that could be delivered by U.S. employment support providers or sheltered employment providers
  • How to fund training and support for developing a retirement lifestyle (especially socially inclusive activities done eventually with only natural supports); What agencies should be responsible for delivering these supports?

Note. When discussing socially inclusive activities and TTR we typically mean participation in mainstream community groups or volunteering. For economy of expression, we often refer to these as community groups, but the ideas expressed apply to both. Other forms of socially inclusive participation are also valuable. However, like the TTR manual, we continue to prioritize community groups because they are membership-based settings where the same people are typically present, and members usually have common values and shared interests. These factors facilitate the development of relationships with other group members.

More About the Authors

Roger J. Stancliffe

Roger J. Stancliffe, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration. He holds a conjoint appointment as Professor Emeritus of Intellectual Disability at the University of Sydney in Australia. Previously, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Disability Studies (1997-2007) in Sydney. He has maintained an ongoing collaboration with disability researchers at the University of Minnesota since 1994.

Stancliffe's research focuses on making a difference in the everyday lives of people with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). His current work is on aging with IDD and focuses on retirement and end-of-life issues. He has published over 200 research articles, chapters, and books. His most recent book is Choice, preference, and disability: Promoting self-determination across the lifespan (2021). He was Editor of the Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability from 2003 to 2008 and is a Consulting Editor to two international research journals on intellectual disability. Stancliffe is a regular at national and international conferences and has presented on five continents. He is a Fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD). He is the recipient of the 2011 AAIDD Research Award and the 2019 Centre for Disability Studies Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sarah A. Hall

Sarah Hall, PhD, is involved in research about the social inclusion of older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) transitioning to retirement in order to identify trends, individual perspectives, and supports. Hall is also involved in research projects about the recruitment, retention, and competencies of direct support providers (i.e., staff who work for people with IDD) and their supervisors through customized support and training.

Hall has published research about the social inclusion of young adults with intellectual disabilities, siblings of adults with IDD, and ways to include people with IDD in research. Her main research interests include the social inclusion of people with IDD, which comprises friendships/social relationships, community participation, and a sense of belonging. As a sibling of a brother with multiple disabilities, she is also interested in family relationships and supports. She values the interconnectedness of families as well as the self-determination of people with IDD that is achieved through person-centered practices.

Hall is a Fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and serves on the Executive Committee of their Religion and Spirituality Division. She also served on the Board of Directors for Ohio SIBS (Special Initiatives by Brothers and Sisters) for eight years and co-coordinated a transition retreat for high school students with IDD and their siblings.

Hall received her PhD from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Her dissertation focused on the social inclusion of young adults with intellectual disabilities, earning her the University Libraries Influence Award. She became an associate professor at Ashland University and taught special education courses in transition, collaboration, behavior management, assessment, and educational intervention. She also has experience as a high school special education teacher, group home staff, youth fencing coach, and leader of a Friendship Ministries program for people with and without disabilities.

Lynda Lahti Anderson

Dr. Lahti Anderson has her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Minnesota focusing on health disparities for individuals with ASD/IDD. She also has an MPH in Community Health. Her professional expertise stems from work in the field as a county senior social worker coordinating supports for adults and children with ASD/IDD and as a program director for residential supports for this population. In these roles, she was able to see firsthand the challenges individuals with ASD/IDD and their families face in getting appropriate, quality health care. Her research experience has included analyses of large data sets such as the National Health Interview Survey along with population-specific data sets such as the National Core Indicators family surveys. Dr. Anderson also has experience in qualitative research methods that promote the inclusion of under-represented groups in research, such as photo narrative.