Exploring community living in Ireland: Experiences of ageing with and into disability
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This research examines the topic of community living for older persons with disabilities. This group comprises people who are ageing with disabilities, either lifelong or earlier onset, as well as people who are ageing into disability, having first experienced disability in older age. Community living is understood as encompassing elements of independent living, ageing in place and community inclusion. This research is contextualised by the life course whereby experience in later life is considered in light of the influence of transitions and turning points in earlier life. An empirical study adopting a qualitative design and a two-phase approach was undertaken to address gaps in knowledge of the conceptualisation of community living at the ageing/disability nexus, as well as silos and synergies found in ageing and disability policy responses. Articulation of voice through biographical narrative interviews provided a basis for capturing authentic accounts of lived experience. Interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 20 older persons living in community settings with physical, sensory, intellectual and cognitive disabilities. Semi-structured interviews with expert ageing and disability sector stakeholders were also carried out in order to contextualise the lived experience and to address issues concerning the existence of silos in ageing and disability as well as the potential for more holistic life-course policies for community living. Findings from this research demonstrate that despite coming to experience disability at different stages of the life course, the overall understanding and experience of community living is quite similar for older persons with disabilities. This diverse group were shown to value community living across largely similar domains. The findings also offered a stakeholder perspective on issues of congruency and incongruence and the implications of these circumstances. As a whole, this research contributes to an encapsulating understanding of what community living means at the ageing/disability nexus. It also provides a rationale for bridging ageing and disability in both research and policy so as to develop more holistic policy responses that deliver better outcomes for this group occupying space across both sectors.
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