Background Considerable attention is currently being directed towards both active ageing and the revising of standards for disability services within Australia and internationally. Yet, to date, no consideration appears to have been given to ways to promote active ageing among older adults with intellectual disabilities (IDs).
Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 Australian professional direct-care support staff (service providers) about their perceptions of ageing among older adults with lifelong IDs and what active ageing might entail for an individual from this population who is currently under their care, in both the present and future. Data were analysed against the six core World Health Organization active ageing outcomes for people with IDs.
Results Service providers appeared to be strongly focused on encouraging active ageing among their clients. However, their perceptions of the individual characteristics, circumstances and experiences of older adults with IDs for whom they care suggest that active ageing principles need to be applied to this group in a way that considers both their individual and diverse needs, particularly with respect to them transitioning from day services, employment or voluntary work to reduced activity, and finally to aged care facilities. The appropriateness of this group being placed in nursing homes in old age was also questioned.
Conclusion Direct-care staff of older adults with IDs have a vital role to play in encouraging and facilitating active ageing, as well as informing strategies that need to be implemented to ensure appropriate care for this diverse group as they proceed to old age.