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Resources for Healthy Aging with a Disability

Promoting Health and Well-Being for People Aging with Disability


The Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) aging and disability networks provide services and supports to older adults and people with disabilities. Aging and disability are processes that occur across the life course, and the aging and disability networks serve individuals with onset of disability in early life and beyond. There are a number of information resources within ACL and other federal agencies as well as non-federal entities that may be of interest to the aging and disability networks and others on a range of issues for people aging with disability.

NIDILRR Research and Development Projects on Aging with Disability

Within ACL the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) is the lead federal agency for research on aging with disability. NIDILRR has funded research and development projects on aging with disability for over 30 years.

  • The Investigating Disability Factors and Promoting Environmental Access for Healthy Living Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (IDEAL RRTC) focuses on people aging with long-term physical disability by identifying factors at the intersection of the person and environment that impede or support positive health and function outcomes and on creating solutions that improve the fit between the two. Their National Resource Center for Aging with Disability has a searchable database of programs and resources in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that support healthy aging with a disability.
  • Technology is a powerful medium to promote community living for people aging with disability. The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Technologies to Support Aging-in-Place for People with Long-Term Disability (TechSAge) features multidisciplinary research, development, and training projects dedicated to understanding the needs of and developing supportive technologies for people aging with long-term disabilities. TechSAge facilitates access to and use of technologies for aging-in-place for people with disabilities through publications, trainings, and presentations for a range of stakeholders.
  • The goal of the RERC on Enhancing Neurocognitive Health, Abilities, Networks, & Community Engagement (ENHANCE) is to support older adults with cognitive disabilities to live independently in the community through technology applications. ENHANCE is developing an adaptive intelligent software system that supports memory and instructional support aids for community mobility. ENHANCE shares information generated by these research activities through trainings, publications, presentations, and webinars.
  • The goal of the Accommodation Expert Support System for Aging Well (ACCESS for Aging Well) project is to develop an online accommodation assessment system that service providers can use while conducting community living evaluations with older adults with disabilities and their families. The system will consider personal, environmental, and contextual factors to make recommendations on accommodations for each individual. These may include assistive technologies, strategies, inclusively designed features of mainstream technologies and environments, and community services.
  • The Community Living Policy Center aims to improve policies and practices that promote community living outcomes for people with disabilities across the lifespan. The Center conducts research on policies and programs related to the provision of home- and community-based services and to barriers and facilitators to housing for people with disabilities. The Center also provides timely, on-demand analyses of policy issues related to community living for people with disabilities.
  • The Medical University of South Carolina is exploring factors that contribute to long-term survival and quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury as they age. In the Understanding and Promoting Longevity after Spinal Cord Injury project researchers are investigating how participation, employment, and quality of life contribute to longevity. The goal of the Aging and Participation after Spinal Cord Injury project is to identify how community participation changes over time, differs as a function of race and ethnicity, and is impacted by significant life events. Education and outreach activities for both projects include publications, presentations, research briefs, fact sheets, and newsletters.
  • The Community Engagement for Disability and Aging Research (CEDAR) Midwest is translating and adapting the evidence-based intervention Community Participation Transition after Stroke (COMPASS) to enhance community participation for individuals aging with long-term disabilities. Education and outreach activities include publications, fact sheets, a newsletter, and webcasts.

For more information on current or previous NIDILRR research on aging with disability, visit the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC), a library of the publications and products for the projects funded by NIDILRR.

Other Resources on Aging with Disability

While ACL is the lead federal agency on aging and disability, across the federal government and beyond there has been an increased focus on the needs of older adults with disabilities.

  • Regular physical activity provides important health benefits for people with disabilities across the lifespan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe five steps health providers can use to promote physical activity for adults with disability. This site includes links to physical activity resources for health care providers and adult with disabilities including the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s (ODPHP) 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines include recommendations for physical activity (intensity and duration of physical activity) for adults with chronic health conditions and disabilities.
  • The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD), funded in part by the CDC, provides information on physical activity and health for people with disabilities across the lifespan. NCHPAD’s resources on aging with disability include articles, videos, sample exercises, and directories of information for inclusive community health. NCHPAD’s Guidelines, Recommendations, Adaptations, Including Disability (GRAIDS) framework can be used by service providers to make evidence-based health promotion programs more inclusive of people aging with disability.  
  • The University of Washington has several fact sheets on topics related to health and well-being for people aging with long-term physical disabilities as well as factsheets for clinicians and providers on making their services more accessible to this population.
  • Over the past decade the labor force participation rate has increased for older workers. Work can positively contribute to the general health and well-being of individuals aging with disability. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has published several resources for older workers with disabilities and employers on topics such as workplace accommodations, recruiting and retaining older workers, and flexible work and retirement arrangements.
  • The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, funded in part by the Federal Transit Administration, promotes the availability and accessibility of transportation options for older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers. The Center provides trainings and webinars as well as resources and publications to help communities create accessible transportation options.
  • Formed in 2009, the Disability and Aging Collaborative (DAC) is a coalition of 40 national organizations that work together to advance long-term services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities. The coalition is focused on enhancing access to home- and community-based services; rebalancing Medicaid spending; and ensuring consumer engagement, protections, and quality in duals integration and managed long-term services and supports. The DAC has put on a series of policy-driven webinars which can be found on their site.
  • The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is a technical assistance resource center working to improve the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. The Center was established in 2010 through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and provides educational resources to aging service providers, LGBT organizations, and LGBT older adults.

Perspectives on Aging with Disability

The fields of aging and disability research are moving toward a new paradigm of increased cooperation and dialogue. The following articles present new and evolving perspectives on aging with disability.

  • A 2019 Journal of Aging and Health special issue on the state of the science of research on aging with disability. The collection of articles in this special issue highlight areas where aging and disability research, programs, and policies are merging. This special issue was preceded by a webinar series on aging with disability.
  • A 2017 article highlights the need to address the gap between the demand and availability of evidence-based programs for people aging with disability through the development of new evidence-based programs, translation of existing programs, and borrowing best practices across fields where there are few evidence-based programs. The research highlights the distinctions and shared chronic conditions between aging into and aging with disability.


Last modified on 01/19/2021

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