Impact Feature Issue on Aging and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

What Does Growing Older Mean to Me? Some Thoughts From Adults with Disabilities


Jane Harlan-Simmons is a Research Associate at Indiana Institute on Disability and Community in Bloomington, IN

Maribeth Mooney is a Research Associate at Indiana Institute on Disability and Community in Bloomington, IN

We recently asked a dozen adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities what they think about growing older. Below are some of their thoughts on the question.


  • "My Mom's not around anymore, my Dad's not. If I don't do it, I want to learn. I'm riding the bus. People out here thought I couldn't get my apartment. I've gotten out and bought my own groceries, I've done my own laundry, dried my clothes, cleaned my own apartment." --Clarence, age 43
  • "[Aging] means a lot to me because if my Mom and Dad die I'm going to be able to go live with my sister and hopefully be able to work somewhere out there. It's not good my mom and dad dying, but you know what I mean, it's hard to explain." --Christy, age 46
  • "I have white hair. It took me 10 years to be my own guardian. I worked awful hard for that." --Craig, age 60
  • "[The staff where I live] help me go to the bathroom and take showers so I won't fall down again. I don't want to go in the nursing home. You never know when something's going to happen." --Joy, age 70


  • "I'm not old. [I want to keep working so I can] get some bucks to buy something." --Marcella, age 84
  • "You don't retire from this place [the workshop]. I may someday. Not right now, I need the money. I ain't going to retire from this place for a long time. I'd get bored. I don't want to do that." --Gary, age 71
  • "[When you're retired] you got nothing to do except stay home and watch TV. You just get bored." --Rosemary, age 52
  • "I don't want to retire. I like coming in to work, seeing people. I work at the canteen." --Dollie, age 61
  • "[When you stop working] you can do pretty much what you want to do. You don't have to be bored." --Joy, age 70


  • [Any fears about aging?] "Nothing you can do about it." --Dollie, age 61
  • "[Getting older] isn't easy. I need to be busy. I want to use my mind more." --George, age 60


  • "It's been hard on me [his mother's passing earlier this year]. But I still got Mom's pictures to hang on. I still love my Mom in my heart." --David, age 42
  • "My sister's got sugar diabetes and high blood pressure and strokes. That's why they've got her in the nursing home, so they can watch her. She can't get up out of bed. Yes [I'm afraid of falling]. I stepped off the curb and bang, I broke my hip." --Paul, age 85