The aging community does not always realize how important the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is for older adults. Older adults are probably the largest single group to benefit from the ADA. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report for the period 2008-2012, nearly 40 percent of people age 65 and older had at least one disability. The census survey also found that about 10 million people, or two-thirds (66.5 percent) of the total older population with a disability, reported having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.
People can develop disabilities under the definition in the ADA when age-related changes make it more difficult to get around at home, be in their community, or go to work. As people get older, many start to have issues with hearing, seeing, or getting around. Others experience serious problems like hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss. The ADA helps people continue living independently for as long as possible.
Although people often don’t think of age as part of disability, according to the ADA, having a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity” means a person has a disability. “Under the ADA, it isn’t the cause of the disability that matters, but what it means in everyday life”.
The Administration on Community Living works to implement the principle that “people with disabilities and older adults should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose and fully participate in their community.” The ADA provides the legal authority for this work to ensure inclusive, community-based services for older adults.
This article was written by Karla Perru and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 3.