Frontline Initiative Aging

Imagine Your Retirement Years


 Steve Piekarski works at Kaposia, Inc.

Imagine your retirement years…having coffee with friends, entertaining, going to theatre productions, fishing all day, volunteering, developing relationships with other community members, participating in a variety of clubs. 

As people with developmental disabilities age, they have the same desires and needs for life changes as their peers without disabilities. Unfortunately, for elderly people with developmental disabilities, very few choices exist beyond employment-based services or segregated, facility-based recreation and leisure activities.

Faced with the challenges of declining resources, funding, and services; attitudinal barriers; increasing health and mobility needs; and decreasing transportation and accessibility options; seniors with disabilities and the services that support them must continue to forge on with the development of options that promote independence and participation in community life.

The Retirement Service at Kaposia, Inc., located in the Twin Cities, has achieved a great deal of success because it is consumer-driven and offers a full array of choices — community-based leisure or recreation activities with peers without disabilities, volunteer opportunities in the community, and/or part-time employment. The consumer-driven, or person-specific focus of this service means each person’s individual plan, desires, and goals drive their service delivery. Retirees choose how to spend their time and Kaposia customizes services to fit the individual, rather than the more traditional model of expecting the individual to fit into existing services. Kaposia then utilizes service strategies that promote community inclusion. The Retirement Service assists with health care needs and daily living skills as these needs increase, but still makes every effort to accommodate needs and facilitate the individual retiree’s desires.

The following are some stories that illustrate the service strategies used to fulfill individuals’ retirement dreams.

Wanda’s Story

Wanda retired from an employment program and explored options for her retirement via Kaposia’s Retirement Services planning process. She expressed interest in volunteering at the hospital across the street from where she lives. Kaposia employees assisted Wanda in meeting with hospital administrators to identify volunteer opportunities that were consistent with Wanda’s interests and skills. Wanda is now a “regular” at the hospital, volunteering as a member of the mailing projects team. She is valued for her skill and dedication. Wanda enjoys the tasks, the company of other volunteers and hospital staff, and the perks of the position. Along with her volunteering, Wanda also spends a few days each week at Kaposia’s Retirement Services, where she meets up with others to access theatrical performances and other events that interest her.

Anna’s Story

Anna’s volunteer involvement at a local care center has led to her active role as “social director”. Anna is part of a small community-based group within Kaposia’s Retirement Services that has partnered with a number of organizations to create a fun and interesting mix of volunteer and recreational activities. Kaposia employees worked with Anna and the care center’s recreation therapist to introduce a quilt square cutting project to residents. Anna and her new friends are involved in a program that provides baby quilts for infants in need. Anna and the residents’ contributions and social relationships are a terrific example of the power of a network of engaged individuals and organizations.

Judy’s Story

Judy hadn’t given much thought to her post-work years, so upon retiring, her plan called for sampling a variety of volunteer and leisure pursuits within another of Kaposia’s community-based groups. Judy expressed interest in documenting highlights of her life in a scrapbook. With support, Judy took a how-to class at a photo memory store, and over time she created a book of treasured photos from her youth and later years. Judy is now using her skills to make greeting cards that are used by retirees in Kaposia services who are involved in a pen pal letter exchange program.

Families and interdisciplinary team members, along with the individual’s countless new friends, peers, and mentors now recognize what is possible for people with disabilities as they transition from work to retirement. They have discovered and understand that everyone, regardless of type or severity of disability, has the right to enjoy their retirement years.