1. Long, Toby PT, PhD

Article Content

Ten years ago, Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation published 2 issues of the journal dedicated to aging with developmental disabilities. Jeff Rothman brought together a wide variety of articles that described the effects of aging in that population. Since then what have we learned? We have learned that this population of older adults has increased in numbers and will continue to increase and that life expectancy will increase far more than was ever expected. We have also learned that this population of older Americans has similar health problems, functional decline, and physiologic changes as seen in the general population of older adults. We have also learned that this population is far more likely to be living in the community in apartments or small group residences or at home with their aging biologic parents. We have also learned that rehabilitation professionals are more likely to be serving aging individuals with developmental disabilities in service systems that may be unprepared to provide appropriate person- centered care to meet their unique health, social, and functional needs.


The collection of articles in this issue brings the reader contemporary practice information on the aging of individuals with developmental disabilities. Although focusing on various aspects of contemporary service provision, these articles support 3 important messages for all rehabilitation professionals. First, it is clear from these articles that promoting healthy aging through activity, exercise, and prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and secondary complications is of utmost importance. As in the general population of elders, elders with developmental disabilities need to maintain an active lifestyle. Second, knowledge of aging in the population of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities is needed by all rehabilitation providers. For too long it has been assumed that pediatric providers are needed to provide services to this group of adults. Adults with adult-onset conditions should be seen by the most appropriate provider-most often a professional whose expertise is adults. Finally, providers should design activity-based programs and therapeutic strategies that can be embedded into everyday activities, promote an active lifestyle, and use naturally occurring community-based programs and services. Because of legislation, advocacy, and philosophical shifts in service provision, individuals with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and other developmental disabilities are part of the community more than ever. They will continue to part of the community as they age and should be served in the community, integrated into programs that are available to all aging adults and elders.


It is my great pleasure and honor to edit this issue of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. I would like to thank my dear friend and colleague, Dr Lewis, for supporting this issue and for always being in the forefront of the care for all of us who are growing older. I would also like to thank my colleagues from Georgetown University, Center for Child and Human Development, Health Resources Partnership. For more than 25 years we have worked together to improve care to all individuals with developmental disabilities. As we have aged, so too have the children we served. We have watched the children grow into happy adults, loving parents, and productive citizens. We have also watched them struggle to get the appropriate care from the most appropriate providers with the respect and dignity they deserve. Twenty-five years ago, several of the authors in this issue were asked to assist the District of Columbia with outplacing young adults from Forest Haven, the District's residential facility for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to small community- based residential facilities. It is to all those children who are now adults and those young adults who are now senior citizens that this issue of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation is dedicated.


Toby Long, PT, PhD


Associate Professor, Director of Training, Director of Physical Therapy, Center for Child and Human Development, Georgetown University, Washington, DC