Factors determining recommendations for retirement of persons with mental retardation
McGlynn, Ann Palen
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One segment of the rapidly aging population of the United States is a diverse group of persons who have received the diagnosis of mental retardation. Longevity is increasing as a result of advances in health care and improved standards of living. This group has many needs that are just beginning to be addressed. One such need is included under the general concept of retirement. A large body of works exists detailing the demographics of aging adults whh mental retardation. Many studies have assessed the aging process of these individuals. Policy and planning studies exist that analyze the needs, cost, and societal impact of current retirement programs and programs that are needed. Interdisciplinary teams have been referring persons to existing retirement programs. To date, however, no research has been done establishing what factors interdisciplinary team members consider when making these referrals. Qualified Mental Retardation Professionals, nurses, and direct-care staff in 3 State Schools for the Mentally Retarded in Texas participated in this research. Demographic information on hypothetical individuals who live in state schools was presented to these individual members of interdisciplinary teams. The IQ, age, health, and behavior of the hypothetical individuals were systematically varied. Participants were asked to answer 7 questions that reflected the well being, competence, and retirement status of the hypothetical individuals and estimate the optimal number of years until retirement. Finally, participants were asked to rank 10 factors in order of importance in retirement consideration. Results indicated that age and behavior influenced responses more often than health and IQ, although the latter frequently interacted with the former. Participants found that older hypothetical subjects, regardless of health status, generally were less happy, enjoyed work less, did worse at work, and behaved more poorly than their younger counterparts. This reflects the ageism found in general society. Of great interest is that participants generally rated hypothetical subjects with higher IQs as more ready to retire than those with lower IQs. Persons with higher IQs may have more retirement options and then work may be perceived as less fulfilling. Participants' ranks of factors did not always correspond to actual ratings.