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Growing older together: ageing and people with learning disabilities and their family carers

Purpose – This article aims to explore the new challenge posed by the first generations of people with learning disabilities who are now living into older age in significant numbers. Most are living with family carers, who are themselves ageing. This represents a major transition in people's lives and one to which services must respond if a normal life event is not to be turned into a crisis. Though this issue has been acknowledged by government, much more needs to be done to provide people with learning disabilities and their families with the necessary support to enjoy a healthy and active old age. 

Design/methodology/approach – This article draws on the work of the authors for over a decade in this field. 

Findings – Learning disabled people are likely to experience the age discrimination common in much older people provision and practice and the caring relationship is undermined in the short and long term. Evidence on the extension of personalisation indicates that it presents very considerable challenges for this group of families. 

Practical implications – More information is needed on this growing population. More preventative support is needed to sustain the caring relationship while the family is living together, to support families to plan for the future, and to provide support when the caring relationship breaks down. 

Originality/value – The article draws together data from the fields of ageing, learning disability and family care to highlight the increasing challenge, which this growing, but neglected, population presents both for policy and practice. It examines the implications for both the older people themselves and for the ageing family carers with whom the majority live and of current government policy in social care and welfare benefits for this very vulnerable group.

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Tizard Learning Disability Review

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