Ageing and Intellectual Disability: Editorial January 2017

Positive Ageing

The theme of this Issue of Frontline is Ageing and Intellectual Disability.

The international age profile is changing, leading to a projected doubling of the world’s population in the over-60s age cohort over the next 35 years (WHO, 2015). It is also estimated that the next two decades will see a greater proportional increase in the intellectual disability population over the age of fifty-five. While this increased longevity is welcome – the changing profile also brings with it many challenges for health and social care provision.

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities recognises the right of people with a disability to choose where and with whom to live. This is further endorsed by HIQA’s National Standards for Residential Services (HIQA, 2013) and the report on Congregate Settings (HSE, 2011), with its policy shift from a congregated model of support (defined as 10 or more people living in a residential setting) and institutionalised service supports, to community-based supports.

Over one quarter of people with a moderate, severe or profound intellectual disability in Ireland live in home settings. As people with an intellectual disability live longer, they are however now more likely to outlive their caregivers. In 2011, there were 4,000 people resident in institutional settings (HSE, 2011), with this figure reduced to 2,725 in 2015 (HSE, 2015). The Transforming Lives Programme subsequent to the Congregate Settings Report (HSE, 2011) endeavours to support people with an intellectual disability to live a life they choose in ordinary places. Notwithstanding this, it is also estimated that there are 162 people with an intellectual disability residing in Nursing Homes (NIDD, 2015), a figure which may not reflect the actual number of older people with an intellectual disability in Ireland in such care environments.

Ireland is faced with the challenge of supporting older people with an intellectual disability in their advancing years, and needs to address this challenge in a meaningful way. National policy espouses community-based service supports, where older persons are supported to remain within their own home as they age. However, failure to achieve this is evident in numbers of older people remaining in hospital-type settings, reported lack of appropriate home care packages and the continued use of Nursing Homes (congregate setting) as a model of supporting older persons.

We need to consider current service provision, that is expected to uphold policy and encourage movement from congregate settings, yet funds congregation when a person ages and their needs begin to challenge. Such an approach only justifies this care option in the absence of any real alternative. Policy initiatives must imagine creative and supportive alternatives for older intellectually disabled people, or at least clearly articulate the decision-making framework for choosing support options.

Judy Ryan

Judy Ryan trained as a Registered Nurse in Intellectual Disability (RNID). Leaving Ireland to pursue employment in Scotland and the UK, she subsequently returned to Ireland in 2000. With over twenty five years experience in the area of intellectual disability, Judy is working as a Nurse Practice Development Officer and is based in the Midlands. She has a Higher Diploma Palliative Nursing, Post Graduate Diploma and MSc Nursing (Intellectual Disability) where she examined the relevance of Person Centred Planning in the lives of people with an Intellectual Disability. Judy has particular interests in Obesity and older people with an Intellectual Disability; Person Centre Planning; Health and Intellectual Disability and Independent Advocacy.





Owen DoodyOwen Doody is a qualified registered intellectual disability nurse and has worked in both practice and education in Ireland. Since qualifying Owen has continued his education and completed a BSc at the University of Limerick, MSc with the Royal College of Nursing Institute (UK) and PhD with the University of Ulster. Owen teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate nurses/midwifes students in the University of Limerick and his teaching focuses on intellectual disability, nursing practice and research. Owen is Course Director for nursing and midwifery post-graduate education at the University of Limerick and has been involved in the recent national review of RNID nursing in Ireland and is presently involved in the national intellectual disability nursing metrics project.


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