Overview of Center

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on

Overview of Center

Center Purpose

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Aging with a Disability is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDDR), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education.  This RRTC is a collaborative effort of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and the University of California, Irvine.  The funding cycle for this Center is from August 1, 2003 through July 31, 2008.

The need for such a Center is evidenced by the large number of people (10-12 million) between the ages of 20 and 40 with major disabling conditions who, for the first time in history, are expected to live into their 60s, 70s and 80s.  Recent research has revealed that the majority of people who are aging with a disability will experience a multitude of premature medical, functional and psychosocial problems as they age.  These problems result in the average 50 year-old person with a long-term disability being similar to a typical 70 year-old person.  This Center is dedicated to research, training and information dissemination that will result in increased knowledge about the health, functional and psychosocial changes experienced by people with disabilities as they age over time.

Center Objectives

  • To conduct applied and longitudinal research related to aging with a disability
  • To train health care professionals, researchers and consumers about both the findings in this area and how to conduct rehabilitation research
  • To disseminate our findings through conference presentations, published articles and consumer information fact sheets

Consumer Involvement

This RRTC is a joint effort of consumers, their families and professional staff.   Consumers are involved in every aspect of the Center from providing input into the creation of the Center to participating in the research projects (as researchers) and in every training activity.

Conceptual Background

For the first time, people who acquire a disability before the age of 30 can reasonably expect to live to late life. Tens of thousands of people with spinal cord injury, polio, cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions are now aging with a disability.

Current research and clinical experience indicate that chronic disability is not stable over the life span.  Many, if not most individuals will experience major changes in health, function, and psychosocial status as they age. These changes appear earlier than in non-disabled persons and suggest a picture that some consider “premature aging”. People who are aging with a disability report new problems with pain, loss of endurance, changes in employment, discouragement, and worry. These changes also have a major impact on family and friends.

Research on these topics has been ongoing since only the early 1980s.   Unless we have better diagnostic tools, better understanding of the processes involved in these changes, and better ideas of what to do and how to help, we will not be able to reduce the impact of aging on people who have a disability.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with a Disability
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
7601 E. Imperial Hwy, Building 800-W
Downey, California 90242;  (voice) 562-401-7402; (fax) 562-401-7011
webmaster:[email protected]