Most people want to work until they hit an imaginary retirement age and continue to live a meaningful life. The same goes for people with disabilities. This is where all of our accumulated employment skills truly pay off, which allows us to cease working and pursue leisure activities and spend time with family.
Everyone has their own definition, however, most people with disabilities have no choice and remain segregated from society.
When I was a Direct Support Professional for a small group home, I supported a man considered retirement age. He was incredibly independent and happy. Oftentimes we would spend Saturday mornings together, supporting him to clean his house. He would want to take breaks to chat about movies.
Boy did he love movies.
This individual would invite me into the basement and play movies from his classical “collection.” Some of these involved “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “Jaws.” He was a huge fan of Clint Eastwood; in fact, he was the one who told me about the movie “Grand Torino.” We would chat for a little bit then start preparing lunch.
Towards the evening, he would tell me that he was going out to the local big box store to browse for flicks to add to his collection. My natural response as an easterner was “Take care!”
I would also ask the question… “Do you need any money?” (Direct support professions usually support an individual’s finances with cash logs and budgets.)
The person would stop and look at me with a gigantic smile on his face, say “I got it,” and leave his house. I will always remember that.
This person was proud to have his own money to pursue his interests.
During some more conversations with the man, he told me how he was constantly working his whole life. From bagging for customers in grocery store, to vacuuming churches, he had a broad range of employment skills and experiences.
He was also labeled as a man with a disability. He had an intellectual disability and also was with hemiplegia from a brain stroke.
This never did not stop him.
Even at an old age, the man is determined to continue working and enjoy himself. He continues to work to this day, go on vacations across the world, socialize with friends from church, and volunteer his time reading the bible. He is truly living a retirement age described in the book Make the Day Matter!: Promoting Typical Lifestyles for Adults with Significant Disabilities.
This person is living a person centered life, his life.