How Neurodiversity Affects Us as We Age

We’re seeing the word neurodiversity being used more and more these days. It’s a reminder that when it comes to human brains, differences should be thought of as natural variations. “There’s a growing push to focus on our brain differences, not deficits,” explains an article in WebMD. “This wider view of ‘normal’ is a big part of something called neurodiversity. Advocates hope the idea expands how we think of developmental disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

Neurodiversities include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, Tourette syndrome, sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and more.

While aging affects everyone differently, older neurodivergent adults may face additional challenges related to their cognitive, social, or emotional functioning.

Here are some common challenges that older adults with neurodiversity may face:

Cognitive changes: Neurodiverse individuals may experience age-related cognitive changes differently from neurotypical individuals. For example, an older adult with autism may have difficulty with executive functioning tasks such as planning, organizing, and problem-solving. Older adults with ADHD may find it more difficult to focus and may experience memory lapses.

Autistic Caucasian man using a mobile phone

Social isolation: Older adults with neurodiversity may have difficulty connecting with others and making friends. For example, someone with ASD may find it challenging to navigate social situations or understand social cues, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Sensory issues: Many older adults with neurodiversity experience sensory processing issues that can make it challenging to navigate their environment. For example, an older adult with sensory processing disorder may find bright lights or loud noises overwhelming. That can make it challenging for them to participate in activities outside the home.

Emotional regulation: Older adults with neurodiversity may have difficulty regulating their emotions, which can lead to anxiety, depression, or mood swings. For example, an older adult with bipolar disorder may experience more frequent or severe mood swings as they age. It’s important to note that while bipolar disorder is considered a mental illness, some argue that it also reflects neurodiversity.

Healthcare access: Older adults with neurodiversity may have difficulty accessing healthcare services or communicating with healthcare providers. They may require specialized services or accommodations, such as longer appointment times or additional communication support. For example, someone with ADHD may need extra reminders about appointments.

Motor challenges: As individuals with dyspraxia age, they may experience changes in their motor coordination and may also experience cognitive decline in some areas.

It is important to remember that neurodiversity is a broad term that encompasses many different conditions and experiences. Therefore, the challenges faced by older adults with neurodiversity may vary widely depending on the individual and their specific needs. At Windward Life Care, we work with clients who are living with neurodiversity. Our Aging Life Care® Managers and in-home care providers are trained and experienced in providing appropriate, compassionate care for all of our clients.