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The risk of social isolation when transitioning into retirement is a very real prospect for people with intellectual disabilities which necessitates close support and transition planning.
There are many challenges to retiring for people with intellectual disabilities, including a lack of knowledge about life after work options and limited social connections in the broader community.
The difficulty for many people upon retirement is finding a replacement for the social connections and meaningful activities that work can provide. We need to ensure that people maintain the friendships and connections they acquired in the workplace and further build on these by providing a wide variety of mainstream community initiatives, including participation in art, music, gardening and social outings etc.
The issue just continues
Just as the Australian population is ageing so too is the Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) workforce, which employs more than 20,000 Australians with permanent and significant disability in supported employment.
Government research conducted in 2009 anticipated that the number of people with a disability aged over 50 will represent close to half the supported workforce in 2025. That is why programs that support people with a disability to transition to retirement are so important.
One example is a man whom has a long history at a support group for the disabled, having worked in the ADE for many long years, and who is living in a residential group home. He has a passion for singing, and through support program, he has helped create a community choir comprising of people from across the area with a similar love of song. Since its inception, the band have won numerous community awards and produced two CDs. He has also completed a radio broadcasting course, and has produced a radio program on a local community radio station. Through these initiatives, he has expanded his social networks, developed new friendships and learned new skills. This example is above and beyond what most people with a disability may achieve but reflecting the possibilities if opportunities are available.
For people with disabilities deserve to choose the lifestyle that suits them best as an individual. They still need to be supported to discover what that looks like, what changes they should be prepared for and in turn, what their contribution to the wider community could look like.
It starts with talking about what retirement means, including family members or guardians in the discussions, understanding what will change and how to deal with that change, and other practical matters such as income. The next step is trying out new activities and experiences, connecting with like-minded people and contributing to the community in ordinary and extraordinary ways. They need a choice and a voice that can be listened to and then facing retirement with disabilities may be a joyous time of their lives.