- ADHD has been identified as one of the most heritable of all the mental disorders.
- Twin studies in childhood consistently report a 70-80% heritability rate.
- Diagnosis of ADHD is increasingly prevalent in our childhood population.
- As a result of their children being diagnosed, more and more adults are being screened for ADHD.
Who did these adults inherit ADHD from? Their parents! Just as there is a growing adult population being diagnosed with ADHD, there is also a less noticed, but just as affected, group of seniors who are also being diagnosed with ADHD.
If life was different when us adults were kids, life was VERY different when our parents were growing up. As life slows down for them, because of health, retirement, and other factors, seniors with ADHD can struggle with feelings of restlessness, become more inattentive, and tend to feel more irritable.
Dr. Kathleen Nadeau has formally interviewed 50 seniors with ADHD to learn about their experience. You can read more in her Article, Exploring ADHD After 60. In my own practice I have informally interviewed close to a hundred seniors who struggle with challenges of an attention disorder.
Many seniors come to recognize their own symptoms as their kids and grandkids are getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD. They are intrigued to learn about how ADHD impacts their children and grandkids differently than it did them while they were growing up. They are reflective about how differences in the education, family, and social environment impact symptoms of ADHD. Not surprisingly, they are often critical of the impact of video games. I’ve yet to meet a senior who “gets” how attractive it is to sit and have your attention captured by play video games for hours.
In regards to treatment, I have found that women with ADHD who are older are more interested to pursue the option of medication to quell some of the inattention, restlessness, and emotional dysregulation. Men tend to be more cantankerous and have the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Although some with illnesses or injuries that have made it impossible for them to stay active seem to struggle with more symptoms and are open to medication. Imagine feeling physically hyperactive but being unable to be active. Ugh!
It’s important, as Dr. Nadeau emphasized, that research start to investigate the impact of ADHD on our senior population. The people who are adults now and have ADHD will soon be among the senior population. Having insight into how symptoms progress as we age and what forms of treatment are most effective can help them live a longer and happier life. A recent study out of Taiwan has found that adults with ADHD were 3.4 times more likely to develop dementia than control subjects. Other studies have also suggested a connection between ADHD and dementia and other brain disorders in the senior population. Of course, many people with ADHD will die of old age. Or attempting a final act of daring and risky behavior- just for the thrill of it!!