Ageing is a natural process that affects everyone as they grow older. Promoting and protecting the rights and dignity of older persons and facilitating their full participation in society is an integral part of the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which pledges that no one will be left behind.
With age, individuals may experience various physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that can impact their daily functioning. Disabilities among older adults are common, as the risk of developing impairments and chronic conditions increases with age. Elderly people with disabilities face unique challenges that can affect their overall well-being and quality of life. Here are some key considerations:
Physical disabilities: Many older adults experience physical disabilities, such as mobility limitations, difficulty with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing or bathing, or chronic health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis. These disabilities can impact their independence and require assistive devices or modifications to their living environment.
Cognitive disabilities: Ageing can be accompanied by cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These disabilities can affect memory, thinking abilities, and decision-making skills, making it necessary to provide support and care for daily activities, safety, and healthcare management.
Sensory disabilities: Age-related sensory impairments, such as hearing loss or vision problems, are common among older adults. These disabilities can affect communication, social interaction, and the ability to perform tasks that require visual or auditory acuity. Assistive technologies like hearing aids or magnifying devices can help mitigate the impact of sensory disabilities.
Social isolation: Elders with disabilities may face increased social isolation due to mobility limitations, lack of accessible transportation, or limited opportunities for social engagement. Loneliness and social isolation can have adverse effects on mental health and well-being. Creating inclusive and accessible communities and promoting social activities can help address this issue.
Access to healthcare: Older adults with disabilities require access to appropriate healthcare services tailored to their needs. This includes regular medical check-ups, specialized care for chronic conditions, rehabilitation services, and access to assistive devices. Ensuring accessible healthcare facilities and transportation is crucial for this population.
Caregiver support: Elders with disabilities often rely on family members or professional caregivers for support. Caregivers may face physical and emotional challenges in providing care, and respite services or support groups can help alleviate the burden. Adequate caregiver training and support are essential for maintaining the well-being of both the elders and their caregivers.
Disability can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life and independence.
As people age, they may experience a decline in various aspects of their health and functioning, which can affect their ability to perform everyday activities and participate fully in society.
According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs- Disability, it is estimated that over 1 billion individuals live with one or more disabling conditions. More than 46 per cent of older persons – those aged 60 years and over—have disabilities and more than 250 million older people experience moderate to severe disability.
The global trends in ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people are likely to lead to further increases in the population affected by disability.
According to data from World Population Prospects: between 2015 and 2030, the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 56 per cent, from 901 million to 1.4 billion, and by 2050, the global population of older persons is projected to reach nearly 2.1 billion. Furthermore, the higher disability rates among older persons, because of an accumulation of health risks across a lifespan of disease, injury, and chronic illness contributes to the higher disability rates among older people, urges countries to review and further explore the complementarities between the discourses on ageing and on disability.
Around the world, persons with disabilities face a great number of obstacles including attitudinal, environmental, and institutional barriers preventing their full and equal participation in all aspects of life. Often older persons with disabilities are among the most adversely affected, facing further age barriers in society.
ACTIONS TO TAKE
To enhance the well-being and quality of life for elders with disabilities, it is important to promote inclusive policies, provide accessible infrastructure, offer comprehensive healthcare services, and create supportive communities. Additionally, fostering awareness and understanding of the needs and rights of older adults with disabilities can help reduce stigma and ensure their full participation in society.
Advancements in healthcare, assistive technologies, and supportive environments can help mitigate the impact of disabilities and promote active aging for individuals with disabilities.
Older adults with disabilities may have access to various programs and services designed to support their needs and enhance their quality of life.
Home-based support: These services aim to assist older adults with disabilities in their homes. They may include personal care assistance, meal preparation, housekeeping, and medication management.
Care management: Care managers help older adults with disabilities coordinate and navigate various services and programs available to them. They can assess needs, develop care plans, and ensure that appropriate support is provided.
Transportation services: Accessible transportation options are important for older adults with disabilities who may have difficulty using public transportation. These services can provide door-to-door transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other essential needs.
In-home healthcare: Skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other healthcare services can be provided at home to support older adults with disabilities in managing their health conditions and improving their functional abilities.
Assistive technology: This includes devices and equipment designed to enhance independence and improve the quality of life for older adults with disabilities. Examples include wheelchairs, hearing aids, communication devices, and home modifications such as grab bars and ramps.
Social and recreational programs: Community centers, senior centers, and local organizations often offer social activities, support groups, and recreational programs specifically tailored for older adults with disabilities. These programs provide opportunities for socialization, learning, and engagement.
Case management and advocacy: Case managers and advocates work with older adults with disabilities to ensure their rights are protected and their needs are met. They can provide assistance with accessing benefits, resolving conflicts, and advocating for appropriate services and accommodations.
Respite care: Respite care programs offer temporary relief to caregivers of older adults with disabilities. Trained professionals can provide in-home or out-of-home care for the older adult, allowing the caregiver to take a break and recharge.
Financial assistance and benefits: Older adults with disabilities may be eligible for various financial assistance programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medicaid, and other state or local benefits. These programs can provide financial support for healthcare, housing, and basic needs.
Legal and advocacy services: Legal aid organizations and advocacy groups can offer guidance and support for older adults with disabilities regarding legal issues, such as guardianship, estate planning, and disability rights.
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