President Mary McAleese Launches The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing New Health Assessment Centre & Public Phase of the Study at TCD

Posted on: 07 May 2009

8,000 Older People to be assessed in the Public Phase of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, launched The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)  Health Assessment Centre at Trinity College Dublin and the public phase of the TILDA study that involves interviewing 8,000 older people over the next 10 years, May 6th last.

By 2036 one in five Irish people will be over 65 years of age; with the greatest increase being in those over 80 years of age. Ageing on this scale is unprecedented in Ireland and has significant consequences for Irish society from an economic, social and policy perspective.

TILDA is a study of a representative cohort of 8,000 Irish people over the age of 50, charting their health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period. It will collect detailed information on all aspects of their lives, including:

  • Health dimension – physical, mental, service needs and usage. Key data will be collated in  the TILDA Health Assessment Centre  officially  opened by the President;
  • Economic dimension  – pensions, employment, income and assets;
  • Social dimension – contact with friends and family, formal and informal care, social participation.

Respondents will be interviewed at two yearly intervals so that researchers can gain in-depth insights into the process of ageing. The social interviews will be carried out in respondents’ homes and the health assessments will be conducted in the newly opened  TILDA  Health Assessment  Centre which is equipped with appropriate medical equipment for cardiovascular, bone density, visual acuity, cognitive testing among other important medical  tests.

Provost dr john hegarty, president mary mcaleese and professor roseanne kenny at the launch of the public phase of the tilda study
Provost Dr John Hegarty, President Mary McAleese and Professor RoseAnne Kenny at the launch of the public phase of the TILDA study

Studies analogous to TILDA have been conducted in a number of other countries such as the United States and England and have made important contributions to policy analysis and design.  In this way, they have led to major improvements in the pensions and healthcare systems.

Speaking at the launch, President  Mary McAleese said: “The TILDA Consortium and Study team under the leadership of Principal Investigator, Professor RoseAnne Kenny and Research Director, Professor Brendan Whelan deserve huge thanks for making it their mission to help improve the quality of life of older people by bringing research on ageing to a new level of penetration and insight.  In these very chastening times for our country, the wisdom, experience, and resilience of our older generation, themselves veterans of several recessions, will have a critical contribution to make to the national journey of recovery.”

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing will be funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, Irish Life and the Department of Health and Children. The study will cost €29 million over a ten-year period.

The study is being carried out by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with an interdisciplinary panel of scientific researchers, with expertise in various fields of ageing, from the Dundalk Institute of Technology, the Economic and Social Research Institute, the National University of Ireland Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland,  University College Cork, University College Dublin and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Commenting on the significance of TILDA its Principal Investigator, Professor RoseAnne Kenny, Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Consultant Geriatrician at St James’s Hospital stated:  “Ageing on the scale we will experience in the near future is an unprecedented phenomenon in Irish history. In stark contrast to the evident importance of ageing, there is an acute shortage of social, economic and health information on older persons in Ireland . The data from TILDA will be crucial in filling this gap and will provide policy-makers in the fields of health, social care, pension planning and biotechnology with a unique knowledge base. TILDA is essential to underpin planning and to ensure a ‘healthy and happy’ life span for the people of Ireland .” 

“TILDA will study the many implications of population ageing, a critical topic for the future of Ireland . Universities across the country are joining together to collaborate in the work and support from the Department of Health and Children, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life has made it possible to proceed to the main phase of TILDA,” concluded  TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty.

Members of government and non-government organisations working on ageing issues, representatives of the Department of Health and Children, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life, the university sector in Ireland and representatives of older people and international experts on longitudinal studies were in attendance at the launch.