A Forgotten Population: Seniors With Developmental Disabilities

1902 words - 8 pages

According to Heller and Factor (as cited in Wood & Jackson, 2003) the number of “older adults age 60 and older who are diagnosed with mental retardation or developmental disabilities is expected to reach 1,065,000 by 2030.” In fact, “in the last 30 years, the life expectancy of people with intellectual disability has increased more dramatically than that of the general population” (Bigby, 2010). Doka and Lavin (2003) report that advances in medical care and a shift to deinstitutionalization have contributed to this increase in life expectancy for developmentally disabled adults. Increasingly, federal policy has linked addressing the housing needs of older adults with those of low-income and non-elderly disabled individuals, according to Annie Thombs, former Community Development Administrator for the City of Gastonia (personal communication, March 30, 2011). The assumption that the housing and service needs of all three populations can be met under the same fiscal and policy umbrella has created challenges for social service agencies and health care providers dealing with developmentally disabled seniors who “tend to reside more in family or small-group settings rather than independently” (Sterns and Ansello, 2008, p. 186). In effect, federal housing policies have failed to address the unique problems associated with elderly individuals suffering from developmental disabilities, according to Doka and Lavin (2003). This paper will examine federal housing policy, specifically the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted to ensure availability of existing housing to all persons, including older adults with developmental disabilities, as reported by Thombs (personal communication, March 30, 2011). Further, an examination of public housing will be explored, and a proposal for ensuring that existing housing policies and programs are more responsive to the needs of this forgotten population of seniors will be offered.
Fair Housing Act
Federal policy has attempted to address the issue of discrimination in housing choice with the enactment of the Fair Housing Act (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2010). In fact, “in 1988, the Fair Housing Act expanded protection to include persons with mental and physical disabilities” (Ziaja, 2002, p. 313) in an effort to thwart discrimination in housing choice for disabled individuals. Ziaja (2002) noted that the enactment of the Fair Housing legislation has led to other federal policies dedicated to ensuring the rights of disabled individuals, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, disabled adults continue to experience discrimination in housing
According to a 2010 report issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the “most common types of complaints filed under the Fair Housing Act were based on disability” (p. 9). To that end, “44% of complaints were based on disability” (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2010)....

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