What do older people with learning disabilities say about their lives and their hopes for the future?

perspectives on ageing

People with learning disabilities are living longer. A recent update of the estimates of need for social care services by the learning disabilities public health observatory (IHAL 2012) suggested that  by 2030 the number of adults aged 70+ using social care services for people with learning disabilities will more than double.

Some years ago, the Growing Older with Learning Disabilities project began to look at some of the issues associated with supporting people as they aged. The Older Family Carers Initiative which followed, drew attention to the issue of people living with older carers and the additional concerns that this raised.

In this paper, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks at what people with learning disabilities themselves and their families are saying about getting older and what is most important to them in later life. The paper includes insights into the unique life experiences of older people and their families as well as reports on projects such as the Growing Older with a Learning Disability (GOLD) group and from older families from the Sharing Caring Project.

The author also draws attention to the fact that Increasing independence for people with learning disabilities , along with all its advantages, has also brought new risks  for example, increased exposure to bullying and hate crime. The author suggests that to meet the challenges of providing good support to o;lder people with learning disabilities, will require a coordinated and informed response across local areas.

She draws attention to the fact that very few people with a learning disability are supported to plan their transition into old age. She identifies some key areas for development and investment:

  • identifying older people with learning disabilities and their family carers through Joint Strategic Needs Assessment;
  • Investing in person centred planning for future needs for families growing older together and in supported living or residential care;
  • joining up practice across learning disability and older people’s services
  •  equipping the workforce to be aware of age-related needs of people with a learning disability so they can make adjustments to practice
  •  continuing to listen and learn from what older people with learning disabilities and their families have to say

Perspectives on ageing with a learning disability, Ward C, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2012



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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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