One of the most hardened stereotypes about the elderly, especially about the elderly with intellectual disabilities, is that with the age they become in a state of total dependence on the care of their family and loved ones. However, what we observe in the age group 60+ completely opposes this stereotype. Modern elderly people are truly active – they continue to work even after reaching the retirement age, participate in various interest clubs and amateur formations, participate in volunteer activities, and in many cases, they support the families of their children, for example by providing full-time care for their grandchildren.
However, the fact that aging is a really challenging period for every person is indisputable – on the one hand, it confronts us with degenerative changes in our body and intelligence, on the other hand, it is a borderline period that requires us to rethink our goals and plans and even to start building brand new ones. And sometimes the changes we have to make in light of all this can be really scary or demotivating. They can cause the elderly person to fall into a position of total self-isolation or to start leading an extremely passive lifestyle. This is especially true for aging adults with intellectual disabilities, who need additional and systematic support to maintain their independence in the aging period. That is why, in our understanding, the targeted support to AAWID for achieving increased level of independence is one of the key factors for improving their quality of life. They should be provided with options and the right to take informed decisions for their life and way of living, as well as to receive respect for their decisions, personal preferences and opinions.
The family is, of course, the best environment that can meet the needs of AAWID and make the aging period a time of positive change. Unfortunately, very often in the family’s attitude towards AAWID prevails the desire of relatives to restrict the independent decision-making of the AAWID, to determine his decisions, to try to replace him in the implementation of activities that he could successfully perform himself, and even to deprive him completely of his role in the family.
Having this all in mind, we have developed an exercise to help AAWID to reflect on his areas of support - natural, formal, and informal, and to reconsider the relationships within them. The aim is for AAWID to learn to distinguish between different types of relationships – in the family, at work, and among friends, as well as to learn the potential of these relationships to support his functioning as an independent and self-sufficient individual.