Older people with ID have relatively high levels of well-being

By Birthe Lehmann
Maastricht University, Netherlands

The population of ageing people with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities (ID) is growing rapidly and we don’t know how well they are adjusting to growing older. Taking a closer look at ageing people with ID’s personal resources, namely their physical and mental health and their social networks can help us identify which of these resources are important for well-being and how we could help them to grow old in a more positive way.

What did you do in your research?
In 667 interviews with Dutch people with ID, questions were asked about physical and mental health, social networks, as well as well-being, in terms of satisfaction with life, happiness and loneliness.

What did you find out?
The results showed that age was negatively related to independent living, and autonomy in deciding how to spend one’s leisure time. This indicates that older people with ID tend to have less autonomy than younger people with ID. Also, age was associated with poorer physical and mental health, and a smaller social network. However, older people with ID did report more satisfaction with life, greater satisfaction with the social contacts one has, and less loneliness.

What are the take-home messages?
People with ID might experience a similar ageing process as people in the general population. Despite the fact that age was associated with poorer physical and mental health and a smaller social network, this study showed that older people with ID have relatively high levels of well-being.

To learn more about these findings contact
Birthe Lehmann.

Full Journal Article
Lehmann, B., Bos, A., Rijken, M., Cardol, M., Peters, G., Kok, G., & Curfs, L. (2012). Ageing with an intellectual disability: the impact of personal resources on well-being. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, in press. Epub ahead of print.