New research from GMCVO-led project, Ambition for Ageing, shows that people with learning disabilities are generally living longer in the UK, but adults with learning disabilities face challenges in later life such as when a parent dies.
The research found that the familial, friendship and social relationships many people with learning disabilities rely upon change as they grow older, and the loss of a parent or the onset of age-related medical conditions can significantly disrupt life for someone with learning disabilities.
Changes in these support networks can lead to an increased risk of isolation and loneliness, further mental or physical health problems, and in some cases use of acute and crisis services, highlighting a need for more support for adults with learning disabilities to age well.
The research was part of the Greater Manchester Growing Older with Learning Disabilities (GM GOLD) project, which was carried out by a team of 16 older people with learning disabilities.
The aim was to reduce social isolation amongst older adults (aged 50+) with learning disabilities and to find out what makes somewhere an age-friendly place to live for older adults with learning disabilities.
The team was supported by ‘research buddies’ from Manchester Metropolitan University and the partner organisations to conduct interviews and focus groups with 59 older people (aged 50-79 years) with learning disabilities from eight Greater Manchester areas (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Wigan).
Research also highlighted the perception of older adults with learning disabilities also needs to be challenged to promote belonging and inclusivity, with many participants experiencing hate crime, bullying, name-calling and harassment.