The Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (AADD) was initially formed in 1989 as a special interest group and became incorporated in 1994. The organization was created to support the increasing needs of older adults with developmental disabilities (mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, severe learning disabilities and head injuries that occur by the age of 21).

The Need

People, including those with developmental disabilities, are living longer than ever before, and with increased life expectancy comes increased challenges in addressing age-related issues. AADD recognizes the growing need for services designed to meet the unique needs of individuals as they are aging and provides individualized supports, depending on the person’s circumstances and desires.


The Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (AADD) was initially formed in 1989 as a special interest group and became incorporated in 1994. AADD has a primary objective of bringing the aging and developmental disability fields together to create and provide best practices for people aging with developmental disabilities (autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, learning disabilities, epilepsy, and intellectual disability—formerly known as mental retardation). It is a one of a kind organization in the United States, serving three area counties through ongoing programs and providing consultation and education beyond the geographical service area. In particular, AADD offers an Annual Conference on Aging with Developmental Disabilities. Under the leadership of Executive Director, Pamela J. Merkle, programs for people with developmental disabilities supported by AADD have been successful with progressive growth over the last 20 plus years.

Historically, people with developmental disabilities died at younger ages. However, more recently, individuals with developmental disabilities have experienced a more dramatic increase in lifespan than the general population. The average life expectancy for people with a developmental disability was 22 years in 1931, compared to 62 years for the general population. Now, average life expectancy is 70 years for most people with developmental disabilities, quickly approaching that of the general population. Sadly, AADD's oldest participant passed away in the Spring of 2020, just 3 months shy of her 90th Birthday. The oldest person currently served by AADD is an active 82 years, and still living independently in her own apartment.

Better healthcare and de-institutionalization have contributed to the rise in life expectancy; people with developmental disabilities who are living into older ages either grew up in the family home or were institutionalized. As older adults, they are living with aging family members, living independently or in supported living/group home settings. Most people with developmental disabilities did not produce offspring, so they have little if any family support as they age, thus the increased need for the support provided by AADD.

Through our direct services, AADD's overarching goal is to prevent entry into unnecessary long-term care placement and premature death in individuals who are aging with developmental disabilities. In response, all AADD programs have a common goal to provide necessary training to assist individuals in achieving a greater independence in the home and community while aging in place.

Notable Distinctions

AADD’s Final Game Plan program received the 2011 Missouri Association of County Developmental Disability Services Cutting Edge award for its approach to end of life issues facing individuals with developmental disabilities (Note: this program was phased out due to lack of funding effective 6/30/17).

In 2013, AADD was the topic of a doctoral dissertation written by Tina Grosso, Assistant Professor of Gerontology at Lindenwood University entitled Maximizing Independence for Older Adults With Developmental Disabilities Via Andragogical Techniques: A Program Evaluation - The Association on Aging With Developmental Disabilities. Grosso’s findings were presented at the Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult and Higher Education at Lindenwood University.

In 2017, AADD collaborated with funders and agency providers to create a Dementia Capable Care Team in the St. Louis metropolitan area, bringing in National Training Group (NTG) to provide nationally recognized training on dementia capable care.

Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Buz Zeman, MSW, LCSW


Housing Options for the Elderly, Inc.

Valerie Baker

Vice President

Synergy Wealth Solution

Glenna James, MAcc, MS


Not-for-Profit Financial Consultant

Mary Anne Tolliver, MPA


St. Louis Arc

Kelli Barton, PhD

Member at Large

UMKC Institute for Human Development

Board Members

Anita Contreras

Warren County DD Board

Catherine Goebel, MA, MSEd

Retired State Guardian

Tina Grosso, EdD


Barb Helm

Arcare, Inc.

Myra Jackson, RN

Barnes Jewish Hospital

Hadley Kombrink, MPA

Mercy Technology Services

Katie MacLean, MSW, LCSW

BJC Accountable Care Organization/Medical Group

Greta Dahley Mensah, LMSW, QMHP

Visiting Nurses Association

Meredith Osborn, SHRM-SCP

Parkside Financial Bank & Trust

Wilma Schmitz, MA

Primaris Foundation

Craig Sever, RPh

EverSpring Pharmacy


Pamela Merkle

Executive Director

Katherine Farache

Assistant Director

As the Executive Director of the Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, Pamela J. Merkle is charged with advancing the organization’s mission and is responsible for day to day operations of a not-for-profit organization to include administration, budget development and monitoring, program development, grant procurement, Board programs, committee meetings, community networking, consultation, event planning and all personnel operations. She has an overall goal of bringing the aging and developmental disability worlds together. She has a BSBA from Southeast Missouri State University with an emphasis in Business Management and Gerontology. She also holds a Fellowship in Aging with Developmental Disabilities from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Pam has 36 years of combined experience in working in the fields of aging and developmental disabilities. Furthermore, she has been sought out as an expert on the topic of aging with developmental disabilities. She has been interviewed by Bridging Aging and Disability International Network, an international, interdisciplinary network of individuals interested in the concept and practice of bridging the fields of aging and disability. She participated as a stakeholder in a 2006 report to Congress on The Supply and Demand of Professional Social Workers Providing Long-Term Care Services. Merkle’s Keeping Seniors with Developmental Disabilities in the Community was published in a monthly blog for the Special Needs Alliance, a national organization committed to helping individuals with disabilities.

Katherine Farache is the Assistant Director of the Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities. She has 27 years of experience in the field of developmental disabilities, 17 of those years in her current position of providing service to older adults with developmental disabilities. She also has over 23 years of experience in coordinating a socialization program and in providing training in the field of developmental disabilities for providers, as well as for individuals served. Kathy has her BA from Purdue University in Psychology and Criminology/Criminal Justice. 

Staff Photos