Population ageing will have a profound and pervasive effect on our global society in the future. In 1993, one out of every ten persons in the world was aged 60 or over but projections indicate that by 2050 this ratio will have increased to one in five (United Nations, 2002). In Ireland, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over has remained steady at about 11% for the past forty years. However, it is projected that this proportion in Ireland will also rise to one in five in less than 20 years. The greatest increase will be in the oldest old, the over 80’s, whose share of the population will more than treble in the next 20 years (Central Statistics Office, 2004).
This ageing transformation will pose formidable challenges: how to sustain an adequate standard of living and quality of life for older people, and to provide appropriate services and facilities such as healthcare and social care, while ensuring the effectiveness and financial sustainability of our systems and institutions. Countries throughout the world are realising that creative policy initiatives will be needed to address this challenge. New policies will, in turn, require a greatly enhanced research base if they are to be well designed and effective.
At present 110 Trinity researchers are actively working on age related research, for example in domains such as brain ageing, stroke and heart disease, population health, falls and syncope, mental health, end-of-life, elder abuse, healthcare services, technology innovations, smart cities, intergenerational transfers, pensions and financial security. The Ageing theme involves specialists from the fields of biology, public health, medicine, informatics, macroeconomics, finance, urban planning, engineering, technologies, globalisation and migration, the law, sociology, business and philosophy.
Some of the Grand Challenges of the ‘Changing Age’ which Trinity is addressing include:
- The biology of aging and frailty
- Steps that individuals and society can take to enhance healthy aging, ranging from health behaviours to new technologies
- How best to ensure care and quality at the end of life
- Economic issues, including macroeconomic effects of aging populations, income security and health care financing
- Retirement - when and how?
- Creating sustainable environments for the ‘Changing Age’