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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Active Community Member

  • Create a sense of community
      - Have a shared understanding about the community
      - Create feelings of being valued and belonging
      - Have reciprocal relationships
  • Accommodate changed needs
      - Address environmental barriers
      - Use assistive technology

NEXT: Plan Comprehensive Programs

Notes and References

Community often refers to a group of individuals who have different backgrounds, yet are linked by involvement in joint action and shared responsibility at a defined geographical location.1

In order to promote community participation, we first need to consider whether the environment is physically accessible for older adults with developmental disabilities. We should assess the environment to identify any barriers that may prevent the individuals from joining the group. Additionally, we can discuss with older adults with developmental disabilities the possibility of using assistive technology to aid in their functioning. With proper mobility devices, communication devices, and visual or hearing aids, we can promote the ability of older adults to be more actively engaged in community activities. Throughout the aging process, an individual may experience changes in his or her physical needs. Therefore, it is important to remember to discuss with our clients about any barriers in the environment and the use of assistive technology can be beneficial at all stages of his or her life.

Another key component of being an active community member is the opportunity for social inclusion. To help individuals with developmental disabilities foster a sense of community, we should ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities have a shared understanding of their community and its members. While physically in the community, individuals with disabilities are oftentimes not truly "in the know" unless they actively seek out information. Additionally, being a contributor to the community is also important. Individuals with developmental disabilities are often seen as receivers of care and may not be given opportunities to contribute to the mission. In an active community, members should feel a sense of belonging and engage in reciprocal relationships. Therefore, inviting older adults with developmental disabilities to participate in an activity or work on a project with other members can offer them the chance to get to know others, foster a sense of connection, and develop reciprocal relationships.

Additionally, a study conducted by Chng et al. (2013) found that older individuals with developmental disabilities who worked with mentors while participating in community groups continued their participation longer in the activity. Mentor programs for community activities can provide proper support structures needed during activities and could be a valuable tool to increase participation in this population. With proper support, older people with disabilities can participate successfully in mainstream community groups or volunteering groups of the participant's choosing.2

More information of available mentor programs is located in the resources tab.


  1. Israel, B. A., Checkoway, B., Schulz, A., & Zimmerman, M. (1994). Health education and community empowerment: Conceptualizing and measuring perceptions of individual, organizational, and community control. Health Education & Behavior, 21(2), 149-170. doi: 10.1177/109019819402100203
  2. Chng, J. P. L., Stancliffe, R. J., Wilson, N. J., & Anderson, K. (2013). Engagement in retirement: An evaluation of the effect of active mentoring on engagement of older adults with intellectual disability in mainstream community groups. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57(12), 1130-1142.