Ageing with Autism: Memory and Quality of Life
Objectives: (i) To identify cross-sectional age-related differences in language, intellectual functioning, repetitive behaviours and memory, between younger and older adults with ASD; (ii) Identify how these factors affect quality of life in older ASDs.
Methods: Our study includes 48 younger (YA) and older (OA) adults diagnosed with ASD and 44 non-autistic (non-ASD) adults, matched on age (18-80) and IQ (>70). Participants completed a series of tasks assessing IQ (WAIS), language ability (CREVT), autistic traits and repetitive behaviours (AQ; SRS;OCI-R), memory (CVLT) and Quality of Life (PWI; WHOQOL-BREF).
Results: Our preliminary data on (i) memory and (ii) Quality of Life show the following age-related differences in ASD (max n analysed to date = 21) and comparison participants (max n analysed to date = 11):
(i) Memory – no differences in recall were observed between younger and older ASDs (all p > .1), whereas older non-ASD comparison participants had significantly poorer recall than younger participants across short and long-delays (all p < .05).
(ii) Quality of Life was significantly worse overall for all ASDs compared to non-ASDs (all p’s <.02). Older ASD participants reported significantly more satisfaction than younger ASDs with personal relationships (p =.02) and future (p = .005) Quality of Life domains, but the comparison participants showed no age-related differences in any domain.
In comparison participants, long-delay recall significantly correlated with receptive language (p < .05), negatively correlated with overall Quality of Life (p < .05), and all recall negatively correlated with age (p < .05). However, in ASD participants, recall and learning across trials was significantly associated with Quality of Life in physical, standard of living, safety and future domains (all p < .05), whilst recall across short delays was associated with receptive language and comprehension (p < .05) and the community Quality of Life domain.
Conclusions: Our preliminary findings on memory and Quality of Life both confirm and extend existing cross-sectional comparisons of older and younger adults with ASD (Lever & Geurts, 2015; Ring et al., 2015). However, these findings need to be complemented by robust longitudinal investigations, which will emerge from on-going follow-up of the sample studied here.