Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Michael J. Smith

Committee Members

Roberta Graziano

Sarah J. Dodd

Subject Categories

Gerontology | Social Work


Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities are living longer, thereby creating unique challenges for the aging and disabilities networks. This qualitative multicase study explored the ways in which six community service organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have adapted their facilities and programming in response to the growing cohort of older persons in their care. The study focused on the following adaptations: physical plant, financial models, workforce, medical care and programming. Twenty-two in-depth interviews were conducted with executive-level staff of the six participating organizations. Data was triangulated through examination of archival data, organizational documents, agency web sites, and publicly available financial records. A cross- case comparison assessed the extent to which organizational characteristics promoted or impeded an agency's ability to make the adaptations necessary to facilitate the aging in place of its older consumers. The following theories contributed to the underlying framework of the study: successful aging, resource dependence, and structural inertia. Study findings indicated that the physical, financial and bureaucratic barriers play a more significant role in impeding or facilitating an agency's ability to make the adaptations necessary than does an agency's affiliation, complexity or relative size. Discussed are the policy implications related to the growing number of older persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as recommendations for future study.