Aging Well on the Autism Spectrum: An Examination of the Dominant Model of Successful Aging

Abstract

There is a gap in our knowledge of aging with autism. The present study examined the applicability of the popular gerontology concept of “aging well” to autistic adults. Using survey data, a model of “aging well” was operationalised and applied to 92 autistic adults and 60 controls. A very small proportion (3.3%) of autistic adults were found to be aging well. Significantly less autistic adults were “maintaining physical and cognitive functioning” and “actively engaging with life” in comparison to controls. Whilst important differences in health and functioning status were found, the current dominant model of “aging well” is limited for examining autistic individuals. Suggested adjustments include development of a broader, more flexible and strengths -based model.

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Acknowledgments

The authors also acknowledge the valuable contribution of the Research Advisory Network and members of the Autism CRC Research Academy whose insight and recommendations shaped this work. We also gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and participation of all participants on the autism spectrum and their carers involved in this study.

Funding

This work was supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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YIH was involved in formulating the research question, designing the study, ethics preparation, recruitment, data collection, data analysis and writing the manuscript. K-RF was involved formulating the research question, designing the study, recruitment, data analysis and editing the manuscript. JT was involved in formulating the research question, designing the study and editing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ye In Hwang.

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Hwang, Y.I., Foley, K. & Trollor, J.N. Aging Well on the Autism Spectrum: An Examination of the Dominant Model of Successful Aging. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 2326–2335 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3596-8

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Keywords

  • Adulthood
  • Aging
  • Aging well
  • Successful aging
  • Theory
  • Medical comorbidities
  • Physical functioning
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Activities of daily living
  • Social participation
  • Employment
  • Education