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Beyond 50.03: A Report to the Nation on Independent Living and Disability: Executive Summary

Table of Contents:

The desire for independence is important to people of all ages. Toddlers struggle to walk unaided, teenagers rebel against parental restraints, adults decide where they will live or work—all of us want control over what we do, when and where, and with whom. We want to be in charge of our lives.

What happens, then, when disabilities early or late in life threaten our independence and require us to rely on others for help with the ordinary routines of life?

This year's report in AARP's Beyond Fifty series takes an in-depth look at the roles of supportive services, family and community, and our social and physical environments in helping individuals 50 and older live with dignity and independence as they age.

The vast majority of persons 50 and older do not require long-term assistance at any given time. However, most people will require assistance at some point in their lives, and most families will face these issues with their older members. In the struggle to live with independence and dignity as we age, everyone has a story, and each story is unique and deeply personal. While most of this report focuses on "numbers" rather than narrative, the realities of living with disabilities are its backdrop:

  • Long-term supportive services often needed by persons with disabilities are personal and intimate.
  • The ability to be independent and "in charge" helps to define one's quality of life.
  • Family life and community, our social and physical environments, and long-term supportive services play key roles in influencing quality of life for persons with disabilities.

Scope of the Report

This report:

  • Presents the perspective of persons with disabilities about what would make their lives better garnered from the first national survey of persons 50 and older devoted to this topic;
  • Presents newly available estimates of levels of disability and the use of supportive services among persons 50 and older from the most reliable national data sources;
  • Portrays new options for independent living available to persons with disabilities, challenging outdated stereotypes of long-term care as synonymous with nursing home care; and
  • Discusses the roles of housing, communities, and transportation in creating a livable and accessible environment that supports the independence of persons with disabilities

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