Frontline Initiative Later Life Supports

Frontline Notes

Welcome to our Frontline Initiative issue on Later Life Supports. According to the Administration on Aging, individuals in the United States age 65 and over have increased from 35 million in 2000 to 40 million in 2010. This population is projected to further increase to 55 million in 2020. 

The newly designated federal Administration for Community Living has united several government agencies that guide national policies for aging and disability services. A major emphasis of this new Administration is to strengthen our country’s efforts to support community living, regardless of age. This is part of President Obama’s Community Living Initiative “to ensure the fullest inclusion of all people in the life of our nation” (2009). 

This issue provides a variety of perspectives related to effectively supporting people with with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in later life. Dr. Matthew Janicki, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, provides an insider’s perspective as a professional working towards moving the field forward to be better prepared for an aging I/DD population. Excerpts from a report by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities at the University of Illinois-Chicago outline some important policy considerations and recommendations in bridging the disability and aging service systems. 

As people with I/DD continue to live longer, the number of people with dementia will increase. Dementia is a term used to describe loss of mental abilities such as memory and judgment. Kelly Dombrowski, from Schenectady ARC, describes one organization’s initiative to support individuals with I/DD and dementia in a flourishing day habilitation program. 

It is critical for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to have the knowledge and skills to support them as they age. Lori Sedlezky from the University of Minnesota describes five aging-related areas important for DSPs to be knowledgeable about. She provides suggested steps DSPs can take to improve the quality of support they provide to older adults. Susan Jakoblew, in partnership with the Page family, describes the critical role of a DSP in supporting an individual to transition to later life. Roger Stancliffe, in collaboration with several colleagues, describes the Transition to Retirement project in Australia that focuses on community inclusion for older adults with I/DD. Self-advocate David Liscomb shares a first person perspective on aging and important information for DSPs to know.  

The role of a DSP includes supporting individuals during difficult times, such as the loss of a parent or roommate. Grief and trauma have been pervasive in support services due to things like the history of institutionalization and issues in the system that continue  trends of employee turnover. These circumstances are often not acknowledged, and can leave people without a sense of closure or healing that they need. Reverend Bill Gaventa provides useful tips to help DSPs navigate these situations skillfully and with sensitivity. DSP leader Lori Raymond shares her personal reflection about the importance of advocating for individuals receiving supports during times when they need to grieve and mourn a loss. We hope you will enjoy this issue as you learn more about supporting individuals in later life.