Monday, October 17, 2016

Down Syndrome: Older Adult Longevity, Health Risks (Alzheimer's Video 1:48)

Down syndrome is usually not associated with older adults. The life expectancy of those living with this condition was only age 25 in 1983. Fortunately, the National Down Syndrome Society has been advocating for people with Down syndrome since 1979. Life expectancy seems to be increasing so well, there have been several contenders for the title of oldest person alive with Down syndrome. In 2008, Kenny Cridge was officially named the world’s oldest living man with Down syndrome by Guinness World Records officials, who presented him with a certificate. Guinness no longer keeps records on Down syndrome because it is a disability. According to the UK March 2016 issue of Gazette Live news, Joe Sanderson (pictured above) at age 80 is the world's oldest living man with Down syndrome. Back when he was born, he wasn’t expected to live past 21. 

About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born annually in America. Older women have an increased risk of having a Down syndrome baby. Because there are three kinds of Down syndrome, people who have it may vary with unique characteristics in their appearance. This may include small stature, slanted eyes, low muscle tone, flat facial features, and a deep crease across the center of their palms. They all have an extra portion of chromosome 21 that alters their development.

People with Down syndrome are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Early signs such as changes in overall function, personality, and behavior may be more common than memory loss and forgetfulness. Other high medical risks are heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Because treatment of these conditions has improved through the years, Down syndrome life expectancy has increased to age 60 today as survivors contribute to society in meaningful ways. 

This video explains the connection between Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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