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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Promote Healthy Living

Photo of people dancing

  • Introduce alternative activities
    • Educate about the benefits of being active
    • Expose to a greater use of community amenities at an earlier stage

NEXT: Provide Meaningful Activities

Notes and References

Postretirement, individuals with developmental disabilities may no longer hold paid positions or participate in day or shelter programs.

Introducing alternative activities may help fill the void. Researchers have suggested that this population tends to live a sedentary lifestyle, due to a lack of understanding concerning the importance of exercise, a lack of knowledge and skills about how to exercise, and an inaccessible environment.1 To promote healthy living, we can discuss with older adults with developmental disabilities the benefits of being active. For example, physical activities can help maintain functional abilities and prevent secondary conditions so individuals can stay independent in the community.2 In addition, consider exposing individuals to these activities during their pre-retirement stage so that they may acquire skills to perform these activities and be familiar with the environment. For example, we can introduce the activity, bowling, to the individual with a developmental disability prior to his retirement by teaching him how to play the game, as well as helping him to be comfortable with the environment and the staff at the bowling alley. At this time we can also introduce any adaptations that may be needed in order to successfully participate in the activity.2 Post-retirement, we can then engage him in a bowling group in which he can practice bowling with other group members regularly. As the person develops the skills and feels comfortable in the environment, the anxiety of transition from work to this activity can be minimized. Finally, the use of mentors to support individuals with disabilities during participation in community groups can be an additional method to help minimize symptoms of anxiety and increase participation in activities.3

Research has also found that attitudes of health professionals on health promotion and disease prevention are influential to individuals with developmental disabilities.2 The positive promotion of an active and community integrated lifestyle from health professionals, caregivers and family members has the potential to promote a healthy aging process for individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as decrease the number of secondary conditions.2

Leisure interest questionnaires can help a person find activities they would like to try. This may even begin their interest in a new type of activity, game or sport. An example of a leisure interest survey is available in the resources tab.


  1. Rimmer, J. H., Riley, B., Wang, E. Rauworth, A., & Jurkowski, J. (2004). Physical activity participation among persons with disabilities: Barriers and facilitators. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 26(5), 419-425.
  2. 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.
  3. Chng, J. P., 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.