Our dark-haired daughter has sprung a few strands of gray, clobbering me with an inescapable realization: Our perpetual child will grow old.
It's tough for parents to envision what the future will be for their children with special needs as they age. It's easier to predict what won't be. No spouse, no house. No children, no checkbook. No fame, no fret.
As the song goes, “It ain't all bad!”
When she was little, disappointments like these on the horizon crushed me, but not anymore. Time is kind in that way. Still, I wonder and worry, what will life be like for my childlike 31-year-old when she turns 40? 50? 60? Simple math tells me her parents will be 70, 80, and 90.
How old is too old to live with mom and dad?
The push and pull of mapping out the rest of her life is the phase we’re in. Today, she’s content and safe with us, lounging in spa treatments we bestow: adding bubbles to her bath, shampooing her hair, shaving her legs, trimming her nails, cleaning her ears, and slathering her in body lotion, while her music plays. Sign me up!
Like many moms, I choked up when our first went off to college. Days later, he called home with a single question: Does my yellow shirt go in the light or dark laundry pile? I was ecstatic, confident he would survive on his own.
But will someone please tell us how to let go of a child who never will?
We'd be less torn if living options for young adults with disabilities weren't so wanting.
Have you been to a group home lately? They are not all equal, and I wouldn’t park my goldfish in some.
Our friend Terry, in his late 50s, is fortunate to live happily in a wonderful group home, the lifestyle choice for many of his generation who never had an opportunity to attend school.
For 20- and 30-somethings, this once-enlightened model is losing its luster. Equal access to education, training, and community involvement has produced a more capable generation of young adults who don’t want to be cared for in a group home.
They want to work at paying jobs in the community, attend church and sing in the choir, and go out for pizza after Friday night football games with friends and a little money in their pocket. Because they can. They can thrive in a dynamic setting that offers care with freedom and flexibility.
We didn’t foresee this change coming. Here we are, 30 years after inclusion’s christening, caught off guard with a scarcity of housing options for this burgeoning population as they age.
New housing models are starting to sprout. Creative Living, an intentional community worth checking out, is on track to be built in my neighborhood. We need many more inspired spaces for adults with special needs to call home.
The rest of us take for granted the ample options we have when choosing where to live. A house, apartment, or condo? In the suburbs, the country, or downtown? Or, in my dreams, on a boat on the water!
Children with special needs become adults. Don’t they deserve a nice place to live?
Our plan for now is to stock up on wrinkle creams to stay young, until we find it.