Adulthood & Aging

Independent Living

The Independent Living Movement grew out of the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970’s, advocating for self-determination, self-respect, and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Independent Living means being included fully in the community. The movement sought to end the “special but separate” mentality.

Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

Ed Roberts (1939-1995), known as “The Father of Independent Living,” founded the first CIL in 1972 in Berkeley, California. He fought throughout his life to enable all people with disabilities to fully participate in society. He organized a group, “The Rolling Quads,” to protest the inaccessible University of Berkeley campus. CILs are non-profit organizations that are places of action and coalition, where people with disabilities learn empowerment and develop the skills necessary to make lifestyle choices.

CILs provide services and advocacy to promote the leadership, independence, and productivity of people with disabilities. CILs work with both people, as well as with the local communities to remove barriers to independence and ensuring equality of persons with disabilities. A CIL’s core services are: advocacy, peer counseling, skills training, information, and referral.

CILs for Independent Living are created through the efforts of local people with disabilities, their family members, friends, and other interested persons. As people and advocates became organized, they began to assess the local needs, level of local interest and support for a CIL. Successful establishment of a CIL often depends on networking, personal involvement, coalition building, and a commitment to the empowerment of people with disabilities.

Legal Considerations

Establishing a family care plan for an aging person living with a disability requires extensive planning. Legal considerations are vital from the beginning to ensure both the aging person and the caregiver are properly protected. Some considerations include assigning a Power of Attorney (POA) and completing an Advance Directive (Living will, DNR, etc.)

A Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. However, not all POAs are created equal. Depending on the type of POA, your attorney-in-fact (the person who will be making decisions on your behalf) may have different levels of control. Types include General or Special Power of Attorney, Healthcare (Medical) Power of Attorney, and Durable Power of Attorney.

Advance Directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you’re terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.

Useful Links

Federal Sites

Virginia Sites

Additional Resources

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