Report on the State of Science on Health Risks and Aging in People with Intellectual Disabilities

Report on the State of Science on Health Risks and Aging in People with Intellectual Disabilities (2009). Haveman, M.J., Heller, T., Lee, L.A, Maaskant, M.A, Shooshtari, S., Strydom, A. IASSID Special Interest Research Group on Aging and Intellectual Disabilities/Faculty Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Dortmund.

This paper summarizes a review of the scientific literature over the past fifteen years on the topic of health risks associated with aging in people with an Intellectual Disability. It is a review of descriptive observational research ranging from discussion at the social ‘wellness’ end of the spectrum through to analysis of the impact of aging on the incidence of chronic physical illness.

State of Science in Health Risks
At a roundtable meeting in Geneva 1999 the Special Interest Research Groups on Aging and on Health of the IASSID joined forces and presented an overview of knowledge up to 1999 with recommendations regarding physical health and healthy aging (Evenhuis et al., 2000). In preparation for the IASSID World Congress in Cape Town, we reviewed the literature 1995-2008 in order to describe and discuss the state of science on the topic of aging, health risks and Intellectual Disability. Other IASSID SSCA groups considered the literature on ‘mental health’, ‘dementia’ and ‘aetiological groups’.

In using the search programs Medline and PsycLit, the World Wide Web, tracing articles from the major journals on ID, and exchanging information about publications on this subject in our group, more than 300 articles and books were found on the subject of health/disease/impairment of (older) adults with ID. Because of lack of recent information, and also because of overlap in disease and risk categories, we did nor strictly follow and discuss all ICF body functions and structures. Some headings are not mentioned at all whereas other body functions and structures are included in other categories. Because problems at young age can influence, are coexistent, remain unresolved or are complicating the health status of older adults with ID, our overview does include some papers on young people, if they enhanced our understanding of aging and older people.

The information and evidence in this report is biased to the situation in North American, European and industrialized Asian countries (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong). In the selected literature there was almost a total lack of information about the aging process and its consequences for persons with ID in low- and middle- income countries. Information about health conditions, risk factors, prevention and treatment for adults aged 30 years and older were scarce, apart from general WHO publications. There was one article found about older adults (35 years and older) in low-income countries (Nepal) published by Shresta & Weber (2002).

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