The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased substantially. In 1929, the average life span of a person with Down syndrome was nine years. Today, it is common for a person with Down syndrome to live to age fifty and beyond. In addition to living longer, people with Down syndrome are now living fuller, richer lives than ever before as family members and contributors to their community. Many people with Down syndrome form meaningful relationships and eventually marry. Now that people with Down syndrome are living longer, the needs of adults with Down syndrome are receiving greater attention. With assistance from family and caretakers, many adults with Down syndrome have developed the skills required to hold jobs and to live semi-independently.
Premature aging is a characteristic of adults with Down syndrome. In addition, dementia, or memory loss and impaired judgment similar to that occurring in Alzheimer disease patients, may appear in adults with Down syndrome. This condition often occurs when the person is younger than forty years old. Family members and caretakers of an adult with Down syndrome must be prepared to intervene if the individual begins to lose the skills required for independent living.