People with learning disabilities are getting older and they need to be included in all activities for older people.
They have grown up within a system that has marginalised them and hidden them away, out of sight out of mind. As Project Coordinator for the Time to Shine project Bee Together, aimed at older people with learning disabilities, I have been working to create a more inclusive outlook for them.
But there are barriers to their inclusion, not just being older.
Many older non learning-disabled people have grown up too with the mis-understanding that people with learning disabilities were a burden on society and needed to be hidden away. But times have changed and people with learning disabilities of all ages are now living within the community.
Although they have differing needs and sometimes a different way of looking at the world, they are still human and want and deserve the same considerations as anyone else.
The Bee Together project has spoken to older people with mild learning disabilities who do not access traditional support from social services or care providers. They are lonely and many suffer from mental health issues as they are aware of the stigma they receive and that society is not yet able to meet their needs. With my help they have been able to join community groups in their locality and have enjoyed participating with others. There have been lots of positives and great facilitation by the Neighbourhood Network Schemes around Leeds.
Bee Together has been about bringing people together and changing ideas as research says that positive interactions are a good way of breaking down any preconceptions people may have. It’s only through getting to know someone you truly understand them.
To aid understanding I have produced two booklets, both downloadable here:
- Ideas on how to include people with learning disabilities
- Ideas on how to include accessible information
They offer support, answering basic questions and also pointing the way to organisations who can help further. The project is coming to an end in September 2020 but please take the time to look at the information. You can make such a difference to people, and they can make such a difference to you too.
My favourite quote from a participant (no prompts given!), after attending a craft group: “I’m happy as a bumble bee.”
Project Coordinator, Bee Together (Health For All)