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BILD - All About People
Saturday 16 November 2019
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Background information

The life expectancy of people with learning disabilities has increased over the course of the last 70 years. This is despite the fact that people with learning disabilities are 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 than the rest of the population (Emerson and Baines 2010).


Ageing Well 3


People with learning disabilities face many disadvantages in relation to health (Emerson and Baines 2010, Department of Health 2001). However, better social conditions and access to medicines like antibiotics have meant that more people are surviving beyond childhood and adulthood into older age. For example, people with Down’s syndrome have seen a dramatic rise in their life expectancy from seven years in the 1930’s to their late 50’s today (Holland et al 1998).

The number of people with learning disabilities aged over 60, in England, is predicted to increase by over a third between 2001 and 2021 (Emerson and Hatton 2008). Recent evidence suggests that older people are one of the fastest growing groups of the learning disabled population (Emerson and Hatton 2011). The most recent predictions suggest that by 2030 the number of adults aged over 70 using services for people with learning disabilities will more than double.

However, this is likely to be an underestimate of the actual numbers of older people with learning disabilities both now and in the future as many people with learning disabilities are either not known to services or indeed do not use learning disability services in adult life. 

BILD Factsheet: Older People with a Learning Disability

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Key reading

Association for Real Change
The Real Change Challenge: Improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities as they grow old: A challlenge for providers

Bigby, C (2004) Ageing with a Lifelong Disability. A Guide to Practice, Program and Policy Issues for Human Services Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Bigby, C (2010) Aging … A Continuing Challenge. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 7, No 1, pp. 1–2

Emerson, E and Hatton, C (2008) Estimating Future Need for Adult Social Care Services for People with Learning Disabilities in England. CeDR Research Report, 2008:6

Holland, AJ (2000) Ageing and learning disability. British Journal of Psychiatry, 176, 26-31

IASSID:  Fact Sheets on Ageing with intellectual disabilities (2002)

Improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities as they grow older: A Challenge for Providers, by Cally Ward, Association for Real Change. Download the PDF here

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (2002) Today and Tomorrow: The Report of the Growing Older with Learning Disabilities Programme. London: Mental Health Foundation

Think Local, Act Personal (2015) Getting Better Outcomes. Personal Budgets and older people: follow up report, March 2015 http://bit.ly/1KQcunN 

Ward, C (2012) Perspectives on Ageing with a Learning Disability. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Ref 2689



Autism spectrum, adulthood and ageingThis project is about engaging adults on the autism spectrum and their relatives in research.

Baranger, A and Sullings, N (2013) Towards a Better Quality of Life: The rights of aging people with autism. Brussels: Autism Europe

British Institute of Human Rights (2010)
 Your Human Rights: A Guide for Older People, second edition. https://www.bihr.org.uk/olderpeopleguide

Changing the way we grow up and grow old with autism, an interview with Dr Jeremy Parr, University of Newcastle By Marianne Atterbury


Developing training modules for Staff on Aging and Disability Issues  

Lawson, W (2015) Older Adults and Autism Spectrum Conditions. An Iintroduction and guide. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

We need to know and do more about ageing with autism, article from The Guardian http://bit.ly/158GFjo  

Organisations and web links

Autistica launch a programme of research looking at ageing and people with autism.

The International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities (IASSID) is an essential starting point for anybody interested in the area of ageing and people with learning disabilities. www.iassid.org/sirgs/aging 

The Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities www.iassid.org/publications/journals

St Georges Medical School. Understanding Intellectual Disabilities and Health. 








“The good news is that people with learning disabilities are living longer. The bad news is that their needs are in danger of being misunderstood, overlooked, or poorly met.”

Kerr 2007


“Everyone gets older. We celebrate getting older every year with our birthday. Some things are good about getting older. It is different for everybody.”

Gold group member quoted in Ward 2012


Do you know of good practice?

If you know of any examples of  older people with a learning disability living active lives, staying healthy and ageing well that you would like others to know about please let us know.


Ageing Well conf flyer cover image

The way life's meant to be - making sense of growing older with a learning disability

This event took place in February 2013.

Download the conference report.

Download the keynote presentations.


Ageing seminar April 2014 flyer cover


Ageing and people with learning disabilities: In search of evidence

This event took place in April 2014.

Download the conference report.

Download the keynote presentations.