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Learning to Age Well

This section looks at the normal aging process.

Many people are entering a stage of their lives in which they are experiencing a loss of abilities and an increase in vulnerability.* L’Arche believes that every human life has value and that each person has something to contribute at every stage of their life. This contribution is directly linked to their quality of life.
As we struggle to adjust to our own dependency and loss, we can learn much from those who have faced these very issues.

*Current trends in the Canadian population indicate that by the year 2056 the number of those 65 years and older will double to 1 in 4. The proportion of those 80 years and older will triple to 1 in 10 (Statistics Canada: Canadian Social Trends; catalogue no. 11-008-X, October 21st, 2008).


A quote of Mother Theresa’s kept coming to me, which was, “look around in your own community and you will find people who need a helping hand.” Little did I know the impact it would have on my life.

Life review work is recognized by gerontologists as an important aspect of aging well. It needs to be done sensitively, and only when a person is ready. Some people have painful periods in their past that they do not wish to touch on. This is fine. Preparing a life story book can give an opportunity to review, integrate and savour many past moments. To help a person with a developmental disability prepare his or her life story book can be a great privilege, as enriching for the helper as for the person helped. The book should be a celebration of special relationships, events and milestones in a person’s life and should lift up the person’s gifts and goodness. A simple method…

The topic of aging is a very timely and important one for us in L’Arche as it is for society as a whole.
Today in L’Arche more than fifty percent of the thousand individuals with developmental disabilities that we support in communities across Canada are now over the age of forty.

We want to continue to provide care that is person centered, of high quality and focused on relationships. Each person, situation is unique.

This PowerPoint will provide a general overview of some normal changes that may occur in aging and how to support people through these changes. It can be used as a tool within teams to train and to reflect upon better means of supporting people at this stage of life.

Resources and Links

General Information for older adults:

Health Canada: (English and French)

  • Useful information sheets on topics such as foot care, vision care, hearing, heart, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. may be ordered or downloaded.

In the section on health promotion:

  • Guide for physical activity for older adults and handbook to the guide (illustrated with checklists) may be ordered or downloaded.
  • Falls: Section, seniors and aging, July 2009, brochure on fall prevention and an illustrated guide of what to do if you fall or witness a fall, after a fall
  • Home safety: Publications A-Z. Very good downloadable “Safe Living Guide-Guide to Home Safety for Seniors” contains checklists for home safety inside and out, nutrition, physical activity, medication safety, and fall prevention.
  • Assistive devices: Publications A-Z. « Go For It : A Guide for Choosing and Using Assistive Devices»
  • For seniors and disabled adults, a guide to defining needs and goals and the necessary aids to achieving them, adaptations to homes, daily activities analysis

In the section on food and nutrition:  (English and French)

  • Downloadable food guide and “my food guide”, an interactive tool to customize the food guide according to age, sex and physical activity

University of Montreal (English and French)

  • A good guide for healthy eating, hydration, weight, food conservation, stimulating appetite, and other helpful hints

Scottish Down’s Syndrome Association:  (English only)

  • Very good material for people with disabilities, in booklet form and well illustrated, that can be ordered under resources information/list of publications. See “Keeping Well” and “Getting Older”.


  • Fact sheet on aging and intellectual disability

 The ARC web-site (English only)

  • community based site of and for people with intellectual disabilities
  • good articles on aging with developmental disabilities: under resources, go to publications and search aging:
  • physical activity and developmental disability, changes in vision, changes in hearing, aging with developmental disability: women’s health issues


Aging: The Fulfillment of Life (Henri Nouwen and W. Gaffney) ISBN 0-385-00918-6

  • an inspirational look at how to make the later years a source of hope rather than loneliness


“Aging, it’s a bother, but it’s the only way to live a long time.”
(Félix Leclerc)