Autism, fifty years since discovery – how do we cope with ageing?


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The first generation of children who were first diagnosed with Autism in the 1960’s are now moving gradually towards old-age. What needs to change to enable society to deal with the specific needs of an Autistic person who is nearing old age?

One of the first people to be diagnosed with Autism in the UK was Timothy Baron. Timothy is now nearing 60 years old and lives in residential care. His father, 84 year old widower Michael Baron has a pressing urge to know that his son will be cared for and supported in the future. Speaking to The Guardian this week he calls Timothy and his peers “the invisible population.”

There is no research into how this population of people diagnosed with Autism in the 1960’s will be supported into old age. Governments are aware that people in general are living longer lives, and have policies in place to provide for people post-retirement, but what about those who require extra care?

In the UK alone, the numbers of over 60’s with specific learning disabilities is predicted to double. It stands at around 1.5 Million at the moment, but does not include the thousands that are living in the country undiagnosed. Autism brings with it communication, socialisation and sensory issues, but physical and mental health issues could have a far reaching effect as the individuals grow older.

Mr Baron said: “We need more research into ageing with Autism, and a focus on transition to old age. The first generation of diagnosed children are all approaching middle age and their parents will not be around for ever”

The National Autistic Society of Great Britain has just launched it’s campaign Autism in Maturity to explore the difficulties of supporting an older generation with Autism. It’s aims are to fully research the problem by conducting case studies, providing support for families, and working with Government to make sure provision, as in housing and personal or social care,  is adequate for the older Autistic individual to ensure ‘good practice’ is maintained.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Caroline Hattersley, head of information, advice and advocacy for the NAS said that it was imperative that government bodies work together to “grasp the idea of the challenge of ageing with Autism.”