Older Canadian adults with DD have poor health and unmet health care and social service needs

By Shahin Shooshtari, PhD
University of Manitoba

There is a growing number of aging adults with developmental disabilities (DD) living in Canada. As adults with DD age, they experience diverse disability specific and age-related health issues. Despite their increased health needs, older adults with DD are at a greater disadvantage for accessing healthcare services.

What did you do in your research?
We wanted to learn more about the unmet needs of older Canadians with DD. We used data from a national survey (Participation and Activity Limitation Survey) conducted by Statistics Canada. Individuals who were 40 years of age (and older) and had DD were selected. We described and compared the profile of this group with a comparison group (other disabilities) who were also 40 years of age or older.

What did you find out?
The prevalence of unmet health care and social services needs was much higher among older persons with DD than the comparison group. And, the reasons for the reported unmet needs for older adults with DD had to with the cost of care or service as a barrier. Older Canadians with DD also experienced greater disadvantages in terms of the social determinants of health, such as employment status, social participation, and social networks.

What are the take-home messages?
A large number of older Canadian adults with DD had poor health; and unmet health care and social service needs. There needs to be more focus on health status and quality of life for research and practice in the field of DD. Also, additional research is needed on the policies, health and social service factors that influence health of this population.

To learn more about these findings contact
Shahin Shooshtari.

Full Journal Article
Shooshtari, S., Naghipur, S., Zhang, J. (2012). Unmet healthcare and social services needs of older Canadian adults living with developmental disabilities. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 9 (2), 81–91.