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Asperger’s syndrome was first classed as a condition in 1981. This means that many men who grew up in years prior to this did not have the chance of an accurate diagnosis and treatment. With the upsurge in knowledge and interest in recent years, many elderly men have since been professionally diagnosed while others have recognized the symptoms in themselves. In some cases a grandchild may be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and as the family becomes acquainted with the signs and symptoms, they realize that grandpa also has it.
Some men prefer to have a confirmed diagnosis while others would rather carry on with life as they have in the past. This is an individual choice and families should not try and force an older man to seek a diagnosis. If they believe their father or grandfather has Asperger’s syndrome, understanding their condition will make his quirks and odd behavior much easier to cope with.
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How Asperger’s Affects Elderly Men
While we hear often of Asperger's impacting the young or adults, Asperger's does not diminish for the old. Men with Asperger's in their 70's, 80's or even 90's still exhibit all of the same characteristics, and often have a reputation for being cranky and difficult. People around them assume that they are simply bad tempered or prefer their own company. Understanding that their behavior is a result of Asperger’s can be helpful to all concerned. Here are some more characteristics that are commonly seen in aged men with Asperger’s:
- If the man has married, he often resists physical touch and public or private displays of affection. This can lead to a breakdown in the relationship, and a marriage that stays together for convenience more than anything else.
- Friends and family are often taken for granted and the Asperger’s man may seem to use them for his own ends. This is not usually his intention but his actions communicate a different message.
- Elderly Asperger’s men are normally set in their ways and can seem to be selfish and insensitive. They speak without weighing how their words will affect another and look out for their own interests above others.
- Sensory difficulties may mean he does not like seams in clothing or labels in shirts. Hearing may also be affected, and he will dislike loud noises and music. Crowds are often overwhelming and he may become somewhat of a hermit.
- Bad temperedness is common, and the man may explode over minor things such as a burnt meal or a missing book. Frustration is another trigger for temper tantrums, and this may be compounded if he has never been diagnosed. He may feel that he is a bad person to behave in such a way but feels powerless to change.
- Although these men are often highly intelligent, they may have held down a menial job or drifted from job to job for years. This stems from their problems with social skills and communication.
- A special interest is common in elderly men with Asperger's and this may be something he has pursued for years. He will be passionate about it and often has an extensive collection of related items as well as incredible knowledge on the subject.
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Ways Elderly Asperger’s Men May Cope With Life
Aged men with Asperger’s have normally spent decades learning how to get by in life. Coping mechanisms include the following:
- Elderly men with Asperger’s may have become defensive as years have passed and are difficult to confront or reason with. This is often the result of bullying and exclusion by their peers.
- These men may have learnt to lie to enable them to cope with life. Instead of admitting they are overwhelmed by noise, tired of being around people, or simply want to go and work on a favored interest, they will lie and say they feel unwell or have an appointment.
- Another common coping mechanism is passing the blame onto other people. In an effort to look good and protect their fragile self esteem, these men often blame others for things that they should take responsibility for themselves.
- Many old Asperger’s men end up living a secluded life style and become known as a hermit or a recluse. They cope better by being isolated and feel happier than when they are confronted daily by the difficulties of interpersonal relationships.
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Asperger’s does not disappear as a person grows old. Men with Asperger’s who are past retirement age have spent years wrestling with their problems and are often set in their ways. For this reason, they may find it harder to change than younger males. Simply understanding that there is a reason for their being cranky and bad tempered can be liberating for these men and their families and there is help available to those who wish to change. Health professionals can work with them and suggest suitable therapies to help them overcome issues that have bothered them or their families for years.
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22 Things a Woman Must Know if she Loves a Man with Asperger’s Syndrome by Rudy Simone, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009