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Chapter 11

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University of Guelph
PSYC 3850
Heidi Bailey

Chapter 11 – The Older Person with Intellectual Disabilities Aging: What does it mean? Who is an old person? • People’s perceptions of age involve specific examples from personal experience or individual conceptualizations Research on Aging and Intellectual Disabilities • Information regarding aging in populations with intellectual disabilities has been limited • Lack of clarity about identifying the elderly with intellectual disabilities Methodological Problems • A number of factors contribute to the paucity of research in the area of aging and intellectual disabilities o Lack of interest o Uncaring attitude toward the populations o Methodological problem of conducting research on aging in general let alone the aging population with intellectual disabilities • Research design is a problem • Two of the most common approaches to studying aging: cross-sectional design and the longitudinal design • Cross-sectional studies: sample subjects from several age levels (say, ages 40- 49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70-79) and compare certain measures among groups • Longitudinal studies: select a single group of subjects and follow it through the years to compare behaviours at different ages • Cross-sectional design is the more convenient procedure because all subjects are assessed at approximately the same time • Problem with cross-sectional studies is that the investigator may incorrectly attribute differences to aging • Cohort differences among groups exist that are not due to aging • Problem with longitudinal studies is sample attrition – composition of the sample has changed “experimenter morality” Identifying the Older Person with Intellectual Disabilities • Little research has focused specifically on this population, therefore, little information is available for use as a point of departure • Difficulties are inherent in identifying, detecting, and analyzing aging individuals with intellectual disabilities • Among people with intellectual disabilities, age ranges for the elderly have varied considerably and have been arbitrary • Early literature in intellectual disabilities carried assumption that person with intellectual disabilities living to 45 or 50 is considered old • Agreement about who is old among people with intellectual disabilities remains a problem • Of those 65+, approximately 350,000 (1%) of individuals have an intellectual disability • Estimates based on a younger age, like the mid-50s, would result in a much larger number Characteristics of the Older Person with Intellectual Disabilities Mental Functioning • Mental functioning is a performance domain that often is assumed to decline with advancing age • Evidence suggests that some areas of mental functioning decline with aging, this is not a universal pattern of performance, and the type of decline varies greatly among individuals • Memory performance such as secondary memory does seem to decline in older people • Research suggests that the elderly with intellectual disabilities appear to mirror many of the same cognitive trends of their counterparts who do not have intellectual disabilities • In some cases impairments do seem to appear at a higher rate in older people with intellectual disabilities • Evidence is showing that older adults with Down syndrome are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia more frequently and at an earlier age than their peers without Down s
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