Adults with Down syndrome experience “accelerated aging,” meaning that they experience certain conditions and physical features that are common to typically aging adults at an earlier age than the general population.
The reason for this is not fully understood, but is largely related to genes on chromosome 21 that are associated with the aging process. This chromosome is important because Down syndrome is characterized by a third full or partial copy of the 21st chromosome.
Generally, the experience of accelerated aging can be seen medically, physically and functionally. Many family members and caregivers commonly observe that people with Down syndrome appear to “slow down” once they enter their late 40s or 50s.
Complicating this picture is that “normal aging” in adults with Down syndrome is still not completely understood, and therefore predicting and preparing for the aging process becomes more challenging. This requires more attention and investigation from the medical community, but keeping eyes and ears attuned to early changes allows for responding to these changes in a proactive fashion.
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilites
Publishes a number of resources, including information on care and end-of-life planning
- The Arc
The largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
- National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices/NTG
Dedicated to dissemination of information and training related to screening, health care, family/community based supports and long term care related to intellectual disability and dementia