By Michelle Putnam
Michelle Putnam is a Professor at Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston, Massachusetts and is the Chair of BADIN.
The Bridging Aging and Disability International Network (BADIN) started as idea about a way to bring people together who are interested in thinking about the shared interests across aging and disability research, policy and practice fields. The intention was to create a dedicated place, a named group, of people who could start to work through the ideas of what bridging means in theory and in practice and who could share that with others who are thinking about or doing this work. The founding members of BADIN all have different areas of expertise – we are an interdisciplinary group – but all are aware that the historical and still common bifurcation of disability and aging expertise, programs and systems tends to result in difficulties for persons aging with disability who do not neatly fit into either system. It also results in a loss of efficiency in a time where resources are scarce in all nations. Efficiency does not always need to be viewed as fiscal. In our BADIN group we also discuss lack of shared expertise and knowledge, effort spent on duplicate (or very similar) policies and programs, etc. as a loss. Our concerns are about systems and their effective operations but also about individuals and families who do not benefit – or benefit less – when aging and disability systems are in silos.
One substantial challenge for BADIN and the work that is does is in trying to lay out the specifics of what bridging is – what it means – but also to identify when bridging aging and disability is a good thing to do and when it might not be. Given that there is only a very emergent study of bridging aging and disability, it is really not clear when bridging should be employed, how it should be employed and what we can expect the effect of bridging to be. There is very limited scholarly or scientific knowledge about this. That said, BADIN members do know that choices are being made in the field among entities like long-term service and support providers to take on both older and younger clients with disabilities or to stick with just one group; among disability service providers who have traditionally serve younger clients about how they will meet their needs as they age, among researchers deciding on age cut-offs for sample populations and about inclusion of certain disability variables in studies, and among policy makers considering whether in creating or modifying programs and departments they should integrate aging and disability services, older and younger clients, etc.
We know that these types of choices and challenges are present in the work people do and that they can have substantial impact on the lives of persons with disabilities of all ages as well as older adults with disabilities. We intend for BADIN to both engage directly in trying to build a foundation of knowledge and place for discussion of this work. But we also intend for BADIN to be an entity that draws people into the discussion and helps to facilitate that discussion. I hope that if you are reading this, you will consider joining BADIN as we embark on this journey.