Older women with ID face barriers to achieving autonomy


Iva Strnadová, PhD
University of New South Wales, Australia

Individual autonomy, especially as people grow older, is important for quality of life. Yet, many older women with intellectual disabilities (ID) face numerous barriers to achieving and maintaining autonomy.

What did you do in your research?
We interviewed 28 women with ID living in New South Wales (Australia) and 27 living Czech Republic (Europe). These women were aged 40 years or older (mean age = 50 years).

What did you find out?
We found out, which factors limit and which strengthen autonomy of women with ID who participated in our research. The factors limiting their autonomy were: (1) intra-individual factors that the women found difficult to change or remove (i.e., physical and mental health issues, ways of being treated because of their disability); and (2) environmental factors (i.e., living arrangement, managing finances, lack of opportunities to develop skills for independent life). On the other hand, the factors that contributed to development of their autonomy included their upbringing (in cases where parents proactively supported their self-determination and skills for independent living), living arrangements, employment, and acquired coping strategies. We also found that women who identified themselves as having a disability perceived this identification as the reason for limited opportunities they had in life (e.g., employment, social engagement).

What are the take-home messages?
Older women with ID have the right and need to live as autonomously as possible, yet society and their family and social networks sometimes overlook this. Families, caregivers, and service providers need to gain a greater awareness of the ways to support older women in achieving and maintaining their autonomy in their later years.

To learn more about these findings contact Iva Strnadová.

Full Journal Article
Strnadová, I., & Evans, D. (2015). Older women with intellectual disabilities: Overcoming barriers to autonomy. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 12(1), 12–19.