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Aging and disability issues often collide
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Aging and disability issues often collide

Greater MetroWest CARES (Committee Addressing Resources to Engage Seniors) is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Throughout the year, Greater MetroWest agencies have the opportunity to address critical eldercare issues in this column. This month’s article on aging and disability is presented by Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled.

generation or two ago, parents of a child born with a disability likely would have been advised that their child would never be able to learn or live a productive life and would have been urged to place their child in an institution (today known as a “developmental center”). Too often, this meant that families were deprived of knowing their children — and all of their children’s gifts — and that the children were deprived of growing up surrounded by their families and communities. 

Today in our community, many families include their children with disabilities in their families’ lives. Of course, as the children age, their needs change. Some may seek new residential settings and employment while others may wish to pursue new educational options. One agency that can assist here in Greater MetroWest is Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled. JSDD provides individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to live in a community-based residential program (group home) where they may observe Jewish holidays and celebrate life. They may attend JSDD’s Wae (Wellness, Arts, & Enrichment) Center, an alternative learning program for adults with developmental disabilities. A participant at the Center has friends and the opportunity to meditate, participate in yoga, cooking and the arts. He or she may visit cultural venues and choose enrichment classes. JSDD and the Center support men and women through their entire adult lives and several of the agency’s service recipients are in their 60s and 70s. The agency makes a commitment to provide the support people require as their needs change throughout the life cycle. 

In some ways, the issues of aging for people with developmental disabilities and their families are no different than for families without a member with a disability. Changes in activity, health status and physical ability all factor into daily life. Aging parents and loss may become challenges. Appointments with physicians become more regular for some. Others live a relatively healthy life with little change in health status, activity level or physical ability. 

In other ways, for these individuals and their families, life may become more complicated as the entire family ages. Concerns may persist regarding whether an individual has the supports he or she needs as parents and/or siblings age. 

With a very large waiting list in New Jersey for residential services, there are many who still live at home with aging parents. Many of these parents fear that an unanticipated emergency health issue will result in their child, who requires constant supervision and care, being left alone. Siblings may be called upon to assume more responsibility in advocating on behalf of their brother or sister with a developmental disability and in maintaining family ties.

Community supports are an essential component to assuring peace of mind for families. There are resources in Greater MetroWest to assist. 

JSDD is a participating agency of two Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ sponsored collaborative networks: Greater MetroWest ABLE and Greater MetroWest CARES. The ABLE network consists of partner agencies throughout the community coordinating opportunities for individuals with disabilities and their families and promoting full inclusion. The CARES network consists of partner agencies providing services to seniors and their families.

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