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Aging in Down Syndrome: Morbidity and Mortality


Jennifer Torr, Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria, Monash University, Building One, Omnico Business Centre, 270 Ferntree Gully Rd, Notting Hill VIC 3065 Australia. Tel: +61 39501 2400; Fax: +61 38575 2270; E-mail:


The life expectancy of adults with Down syndrome has increased dramatically over the last 30 years, leading to increasing numbers of adults with Down syndrome now living into middle and old age. Early-onset dementia of the Alzheimer type is highly prevalent in adults with Down syndrome in the sixth decade, and this has overshadowed other important conditions related to aging among adults with Down syndrome. The authors' aim was to update and summarize current knowledge on these conditions, and examine causes of morbidity and mortality in older people with Down syndrome by conducting a systematic review of the published literature for the period: 1993–2008. They reviewed English-language literature drawn from searches in the electronic databases Medline, CINAHL, and PsycINFO, as well as supplementary historical papers. The authors conclude that functional decline in older adults with Down syndrome cannot be assumed to be due only to dementia of the Alzheimer type (which is not inevitable in all adults with Down syndrome). Functional decline may be the result from a range of disorders, especially sensory and musculoskeletal impairments. Given the high rates of early-onset age-related disorders among adults with Down syndrome, programmatic screening, monitoring, and preventive interventions are required to limit secondary disabilities and premature mortality. With respect to assessment and treatment, in the absence of specialist disability physicians, geriatricians have a role to play.