The rising tide of ‘Gerontautism’

David Mason*, Gavin Stewart*, Simone Capp, Francesca Happe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background There is a paucity of research involving older autistic people, as highlighted in a number of systematic reviews. However, it is less clear whether this is changing, and what the trends might be in research on autism in later life.
Method We conducted a broad review of the literature by examining the number of results from a search in three databases (PubMed, Embase, PsychINFO) across four age groups: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and older age. We also examined the abstracts of all the included papers for the older age group and categorised them under broad themes.
Results Our database search identified 145 unique papers on autism in older age, with an additional 67 found by the authors (hence, the total number of papers in this review is 212). Since 2012, we found a 392% increase in research with older autistic people, versus 196% increase for childhood/early life, 253% for adolescence, and 264% for adult research. We identify 2012 as a point at which, year-on-year, older age autism research started increasing, with the most commonly researched areas being cognition, the brain, and genetics. However, older adult research only accounted for 0.4% of published autism studies over the past decade.
Conclusion This increase reflects a positive change in the research landscape, although research with children continues to dominate. We also note the lack of unique search terms for autism aging research, and propose the portmanteau term ‘Gerontautism’ as an additional keyword to clearly identify research in this steadily growing area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Dec 2021


  • gerontautism, older age, aging, autism, autistic people


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