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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Scenario #1: Joseph

Photo of man's face

  • Age: 84
  • Type of developmental disability: Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Type of residence: Independent home with spouse
  • Demographic location: City suburbs

NEXT: Scenario #2: Catherine

Notes and References

I would like to introduce you to Joseph. Joseph is retired and, at the age of 84, is alone most days while his wife (age 75) is at work.

He lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle which may be negatively impacting his hypertension. He uses a rolling walker to navigate his home (max: 100 meters) due to experiencing a herniated disk in his back while in his 60's. Joseph enjoys his morning coffee and pastry on the front porch of his home in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. He takes a mid-morning nap and spends the rest of his day watching his favorite TV shows or working with his collection of antiques in the garage. Joseph has high functioning autism and he is able to take care of himself, but he is very socially isolated. His two brothers live in his neighborhood (a few blocks away) but he rarely sees them, only when they invite themselves over. Although he cannot drive, there are shopping centers within a 5- to 10-minute drive and cafés/markets within walking distance (50 meters). When asked, Joseph describes a desire to stay home with his wife in the evenings instead of going out into the community. Joseph tends to get frustrated when his wife indicates that she is upset about his lack of desire to be active and interact with people.

Take a couple of minutes to think about how you would help Joseph become a more active community participant.

Here are some suggestions for community integration.

It is important to focus on Joseph's strengths and interests. Joseph can use his rolling walker to ambulate for 100 meters, so encouraging him to walk to his brothers' homes or to the local markets and cafes may be a good way to promote his physical well-being. Joseph's interests include watching TV and working with his antiques collection. After further discussion with Joseph and his wife about what they like to do together, suggesting going to the movies or antique stores/shows could help Joseph be more active in his community and potentially expand his social network as well as his leisure interests. One could take it a step further and provide them with the resources to locate these places in the community. By including Joseph's wife in the conversation, Joseph may be more motivated to participate. In addition, Joseph may not be comfortable exploring new places by himself. Asking his family and friends to accompany him to some local cafés or antique shops the first few times might help him integrate these places into his daily routine.