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Ronnie lifeways down's syndrome millwater

Ronnie, who lives at Millwater, a Lifeways residential service in Birmingham, is thought to be one of the oldest adults in the UK with Down’s syndrome.

Earlier this year, Ronnie celebrated his 70th birthday with a big party held at the service. To mark the occasion, a team from ITV News Central showed up to film Ronnie’s party.

When Ronnie’s not celebrating his birthday, he likes to keep busy. Ronnie enjoys meals out, day trips, holidays, and as a loving, caring person, he enjoys the company of his peers and the support team. He also has a fabulous relationship with his family.

Ronnie’s favourite activity has always been arts and crafts – you wouldn’t ever catch him without his colouring pens!

At Millwater, Ronnie lives alongside three of his peers, Sharon, Denise, and Mary, who also have Down’s syndrome.

The four individuals know each other well, as they’ve all lived at Millwater for over ten years.

Simple formula

According to Mani Bharaj, Millwater’s Deputy Manager, supporting Ronnie and his peers at the service boils down to one thing.

“Our formula is simple: love,” says Mani. “We treat everyone with love, care, and respect. We’re delighted that Ronnie’s doing so well and thriving in his seventies, and that his peer Sharon will be turning 60 this year.”

Ronnie’s two other peers, Denise and Mary, are in their forties. Over the years, the support team have got to know and understand everyone extremely well.

“The support team has an excellent understanding of each individual’s physical and health needs and how to provide the best approach to support,” says Emma, Millwater’s Registered Manager. “This is achieved through training and a positive, trusting relationship between the teams and the people we support.”

What is Down’s syndrome?

People with Down’s syndrome are born with an extra chromosome, and usually have some level of learning disability.

Back in the 1950s, the decade Ronnie was born in, less than half of new-born babies with Down's syndrome survived to their first birthday.

Yet today, people with Down’s syndrome in the UK have a median life expectancy of about 58. Only a small number of people with the syndrome live into their seventies.

In the UK, close to 42,000 people have Down’s syndrome.

Adults with Down syndrome are at an increased risk of certain health conditions.

These include:

  • thyroid issues
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • diabetes
  • and more susceptibility to serious infections

“Having a well-trained support team who know the person well can ensure medical advice is sought early so potential health issues don't go untreated,” says Karen Roberts, Lifeways’ Group Head of Health & Clinical Governance.

“This should also come alongside supporting the individual to attend annual health checks and regular screening appointments which are all important in maintaining someone’s health and wellbeing.”

So how are people in Ronnie’s generation enjoying far longer lives?

“Many people of Ronnie’s generation have been trailblazers – achieving better standards of support, as attitudes towards Down’s syndrome changed,” says Julian Hallett, an expert on Down’s syndrome at the Down’s Syndrome Association.

According to Julian, soaring life expectancy for people with Down’s syndrome can be attributed to a mix of:

  • changing attitudes of inclusion towards people with learning disabilities
  • rising standards of healthcare
  • and more positive expectations of what people with Down's syndrome can achieve.

“Stories like Ronnie’s just go to show that if individuals receive good quality care, stimulating environments, and families and services who support them, the benefits are clear to see.”

“Moving forward, to achieve greater support for people with Down’s syndrome, what is important to us and the services we work with is to challenge health inequalities,” adds Julian.

“Hopefully this will add to the length and quality of life of people like Ronnie.”

More on Sharon, Denise and Mary:


Sharon enjoys one-to-one time with her support team.

Sharon enjoys colouring and arts and crafts. Occasionally, Sharon will join in with a dance, and sometimes the support team will catch her singing along to her favourite tunes.

Right now, the support team are looking forward to celebrating Sharon’s 60th birthday in a few months!


 As Millwater’s entertainer, Denise is a fun, outgoing person. She loves a party and all that goes along with it – and she’s a talented singer.

She enjoys dancing and is always happy to engage in conversation with her support team and peers.

Denise enjoys day trips and holidays – and also has a wonderful relationship with her family whom she sees regularly.

Denise has taken the lead on organising her upcoming 50th birthday later this year. She is so excited!


Mary is very relaxed and laid-back.  As a kind and loving lady, Mary enjoys one to one time with her support team - and loves parties.

She also has a fabulous relationship with her sisters, who visit her on a weekly basis.

Mary enjoys shopping and coffee shops. For Mary, it’s important to always look her best!

About Lifeways:

Lifeways is the UK’s largest team of support professionals providing support for adults in the community.

We support adults with diverse and complex needs, including learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and mental health conditions. 

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Please note: The photos in this article were taken before the Coronavirus pandemic.

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