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Aging Seniors with Developmental Disabilities Need Independent Living Options, Too!

Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, Vice President of Admissions and Marketing Chapel Haven

What happens when young adults with disabilities age out of their Young Adult transitional programs? What happens when those young adults become senior citizens with medical and physical limitations in addition to their emotional special needs? These are vexing and painful problems that people with disabilities, as well as their families, face with great fear.

While very few agencies have ventured into serving senior adults with disabilities, Chapel Haven is preparing to do just that.

Chapel Haven was founded by two families on Chapel Street in New Haven, Conn. in 1972, to help adults with disabilities learn to live a more independent, adult lifestyle. This unique non-profit grew into a lifelong program for adults, who came to learn independent living skills but found much more: the ability to eventually manage living on their own with limited support from Chapel Haven's experienced staff. They were also helped to find paying jobs, easy transportation access, and most importantly, a satisfying circle of adult friends.

Forty five years later, Chapel Haven is now pioneering an expansion that promises to be a national model in accommodating the changing needs of adults with disabilities as they age. Chapel Haven's expansion both for younger adults and older adults includes:

  • Construction of a new, 32,500 REACH residential and classroom campus to house Chapel Haven's REACH program, which for 45 years has helped adults with cognitive and social disabilities learn to live independently.
  • A new Welcome Center serves as the new gateway to our campus.
  • In the fall of 2018, Chapel Haven will break ground on a new, four-story residential community designed for older adults. Along with apartments, clinical space and community services, this addition will be universal in design and layout, and will be intergenerational, where adults with disabilities can flourish into their senior years in a vibrant and non-institutional setting.
Dr. Fred Volkmar, a Chapel Haven board member and an internationally renowned expert in autism as the Irving B. Harris Professor at the Yale Child Study Center, explains:

"With earlier detection and treatment, many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders are doing better overall, but often need continued support as they enter adulthood," Dr. Volkmar said. "Chapel Haven has been a leader is providing such support to students interested in going on to college and adult independence. It is one of the few programs around the country to offer comprehensive support for individuals and their families." Chapel Haven President Michael Storz said the expansion is borne of necessity, as a "tsunami" of young adults with a variety of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, are aging into adulthood, and as older adults will be looking for the same thing all adults are: a community in which they can age gracefully and among their friends.

"We are turning a leaf in Chapel Haven's playbook, charting the next 45 years of excellence in our field," Storz said. "It has been heartbreaking to see some of our older adults have to leave our program to enter nursing homes or assisted living facilities without the expertise in place to serve them. With this expansion, we truly will become a lifelong program, where adults with disabilities can continue to live among their friends and with the right support."

Founded in 1972, Chapel Haven teaches adults with cognitive disabilities and social disabilities, including Asperger Syndrome, to live independent and productive lives. For more information, call the Admissions Office at (203) 397-1714, ext 148. Read more at

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.

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