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Transitions in Aging

Community Participation

Community Participation and Successful Aging

Photo of man taking inventory in store

  • Successful aging
    • Remaining independent, living in the community, maintaining the ability to make choices for oneself, and engaging in activities
  • Retirement
    • Staying active and productive after retirement

NEXT: Benefits of Community Participation

Notes and References

Why should we participate in community activities?

In the first module of this series, Successful Aging, we talk about the four key components contributing to successful aging: (1) remaining independent, (2) living in the community, (3) maintaining the ability to make choices for oneself, and (4) engaging in enjoyable activities for as long as possible. Engaging in community activities can help us age well, as it offers us opportunities to make choices about what we like to do and to do these enjoyable activities in the community. In addition, if we choose to retire from our current positions at work or day programs, we can use our free time to stay active and productive by participating in community activities. Through community participation, we can also maintain and expand our social relationships in the community,1, 7 which helps promote our social and emotional wellbeing.

However, researchers have found that we aren't participating in community activities frequently enough.2 Why is this? As we get older, we experience some changes in the ways our body functions. For example, as we age, it becomes more difficult to see a close object or to hear high-pitched sounds. These changes in our bodies can affect our ability to continue participating in the activities that we enjoy.2, 3 To maintain a happy and healthy life in our older age, we need to learn to adapt to these changes.4, 5, 6, 7, 8


  1. Judge, J., Walley, R., Anderson, B., & Young, R. (2010). Activity, aging, and retirement: The views of a group of Scottish people with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 7(4), 295-301.
  2. Seltzer, M. M., Krauss, M. W. & Janicki, M. P. (1994). Life course perspectives on adulthood and old age. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.
  3. Fesko, S. L., Hall, A. C., Quinlan, J., & Jockell, C., (2012). Active aging for individuals with intellectual disability: Meaningful community participation through employment, retirement, service, and volunteerism. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 117(6), 497-508.
  4. Carstensen, L. L. (1991). Selectivity theory: Social activity in life span context. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 11, 195-217.
  5. Llewellyn, G., Balandin, S., Dew, A. & McConnell, D. (2004) Promoting healthy, productive ageing: Plan early, plan well, Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 29(4), 366-369.
  6. Laughlin, C. & Cotten, P. D. (1994). Efficacy of a pre-retirement planning intervention for ageing individuals with mental retardation. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability Research, 38, 317-328.
  7. Stancliffe, R. J., Bigby, C., Balandin, S., Wilson, N. J., & Craig, D. (2015). Transition to retirement and participation in mainstream community groups using active mentoring: A feasibility and outcomes evaluation with a matched comparison group. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(8), 703-718.
  8. LaPlante, M. P. (2014). Key goals and indicators for successful aging of adults with early-onset disability. Disability and Health Journal, 7(1), S44-S50.