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Trinity EngAGE, University of the Third Age (U3A) & Age Action Open Forum

Edmund Burke Theatre, Trinity College

08 April 2014

Welcome, everybody, to Trinity College,

I’m delighted to see you all here for this important event: the Open Forum, which brings together Trinity EngAGE, our Centre for Research on Ageing, the University of the Third Age (U3A), Age Action, and the newly created Trinity Retirement Association. 

I’m also delighted that the Forum is being held this particular week – Trinity Week. Trinity Week is a special week where we celebrate the achievements of staff and students, and the distinctiveness of our education. In this Week, traditionally, we host public events and open the campus to the general public.

This year’s Trinity Week is organised by the Faculty of Health Sciences, and it is on the theme of The Science of Happiness, which is, I think, particularly fitting for today’s meeting. 

All week there will be lectures and talks on the science of happiness and its influence on mental health. There will also be guided walks, Tai Chi in Front Square, relaxation classes, musical performances and short films.

The quotation adopted for this year’s Trinity Week’s sentiment is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French writer and aviator who wrote the great children’s classic, The Little Prince. His words, which we’ve adopted this week, go:"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new."

That’s a wonderful quote, particularly I think for this Open Forum which is about promoting healthy, active ageing for all citizens. It’s a quote which celebrates on-going creativity – after ‘the joy of deeds well done’ comes more ‘zest’ from ‘creating things new’ again. This ties in most fortuitously with Professor Des O’Neill’s lecture - which he will deliver shortly – on creative ageing.

And yesterday the Trinity Discourse – which is an annual lecture on a the life of a graduate of the College – was given by Professor David Berman, who is an Emeritus Professor in philosophy, and it was about A.A. Luce, who was the longest serving fellow in the College’s history. He died in 1977, aged 95. In a magnificent discourse, Professor Berman showed that, in his later years, Luce substantially changed his thinking and his philosophical position. He was active and thinking and ‘making it new’ until the end of his very long life, and he serves as an example to all.

Luce died before the concept of ‘life-long learning’ became current, but that is what he embodied. The whole concept of a retirement age is of course entirely arbitrary. From my point of view, as Provost, I frequently meet older alumni and staff who are as full of ideas as undergraduates.  And who wish, generously, to continue engaging with the university. It’s vital that we give all who are willing the opportunities to contribute to the success of the College.

That’s why I’m delighted that we now, finally, have a Trinity Retirement Association and I’m delighted that this Open Forum brings together so many advocacy groups.

In Trinity we’re committed to conducting original, ground-breaking research and to using this for the benefit of humanity. We want our research to inspire change, and to affect policies.

Ageing is a core research area for Trinity. Seven years ago we established the ground-breaking Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, which will run until 2016 and which has put this university, and indeed this country, at the forefront of cutting-edge research in ageing.

Most of the major academic institutions in Ireland have collaborated with this Longitudinal Study, making it very much a national project. Trinity, and Ireland, is now a first port of call for researchers all over the world seeking information on ageing.

Because Ageing affects all areas of life and study, researchers hail from a wide range of disciplines including: epidemiology, medicine, demography, social policy, psychology, economics, and nursing.

By collating their expertise, our researchers are helping to promote active, healthy ageing in all domains. Already our researchers have teamed up with industry. Our Institute of Neuroscience is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline to advance novel therapies, and with Intel and General Electric to develop technologies to support independent living in old age.

Technological and therapeutic advances are important. So also are political, social, and civic advances. In a very obvious sense, research into and advocacy on, active ageing is to everyone’s advantage. Therefore, with a selfish eye to my own future, I thank you for the work you are doing and pledge Trinity’s continued support.

Thank you.

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