The first generation of children diagnosed with autism is now moving into old age. As such, they find themselves facing a unique set of hurdles. It’s hard enough to successfully adapt when aging in place, but the challenges among seniors with autism can make for an extremely difficult task.
Autistic seniors have difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues and communicating effectively. They are also subject to normal age-related mental, social and physical changes. Despite the mounting dangers, experts have failed to focus on the impact among seniors with learning disabilities and autism. Very little research is available to guide physicians or medical experts when treating autistic seniors, recognizing their changing needs or coming up with adequate plans of care. In essence, researchers and policymakers have opted to turn a blind eye to the devastation caused by autism among older adults.
Surprisingly, there are no reliable figures to illustrate just how many seniors currently suffer with autism. The number of United States citizens over the age of 65 and diagnosed with a learning disability is expected to double in the next 15 to 20 years. Without a radical shift in the way autistic seniors are viewed and the number of scientific studies conducted, older adults and their caregivers will likely find themselves searching for help, but coming up empty handed.
Rather than wait around for the catastrophe to happen, the National Autism Society decided to get proactive. They launched a research project known as Autism in Maturity and a commission that is solely dedicated to autism and ageing. Their goal is to guide and support older adults with autism while providing assistance and education to their senior caregivers and loved ones.
To ensure autistic seniors and their caregivers receive the appropriate level of care and specialized services, the Autism in Maturity project hopes to:
• Establish a core group of issues that identify the key problems and most pressing needs of autistic seniors
• Provide a reliable source of information and resources for older adults with autism, their caregivers and family members
• Serve as an advocate and voice for seniors suffering with autism
• Educate the general public about the process of aging with autism
• Constantly identify and implement services that meet the needs of autistic older adults