Demographics are changing dramatically in Ireland and globally – people are living longer, and fertility rates are dropping. The impact on population health, social care and economic systems will be significant. The outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019 has exacerbated even greater pressure on these systems, while measures to curb the spread of the virus has particularly impacted the mental and physical health of older people the most. Despite these challenges, it is predicted that by 2031, more than a quarter of a million inhabitants in the Republic of Ireland will be aged over 80 years of age. Planning for an age-friendly and age-inclusive society is essential.
One of the great triumphs of the past century has been vastly increasing life expectancy and the number of people living into old age. But this ageing transformation poses significant 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 are needed to address this challenge.
But population ageing also offers societies an opportunity to embrace the older population as a resource, rather than as a group solely in need of care and support.
The World Assembly has endorsed 2020 to 2030 as the 'Decade of Healthy Ageing' to change the way societies think, feel and act towards age and ageism, promoting age-friendly initiatives that foster the abilities of older people. This includes the delivery of person-centred integrated care and primary health services for older adults, while ensuring older people have access to quality long-term care.
Trinity academics and clinicians are promoting research and teaching in ageing, developing a comprehensive research agenda, broadening the interest of the College and wider community in ageing through public engagement. Trinity plays a leading role in relation to promoting awareness of ageing issues and maintaining relations with relevant external stakeholders.
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)
TILDA is the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, a representative population study that traces the health, social and economic circumstances of over 8,500 people over the age of 50 and living in Ireland. Trinity researchers aim to identify early changes and early indicators of decline and to develop new treatments and new technologies to enable early interventions. In response to the COVID-19 crisis that unfolded in 2020, TILDA has produced a number of significant reports on Ireland’s older population to support Government and health authorities’ preparedness plans. Discover these reports and a wide breadth of TILDA research here.
The Ageing Challenge
How can we keep people very healthy right to the very end of life?
The Ageing Opportunity
How can we enhance the contribution of older people to society?
MERCER'S INSTITUTE FOR SUCCESSFUL AGEING (MISA)
St. James's Hospital
The Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing is a state-of-the-art-facility for integrated clinical services and a hub for internationally renowned research on ageing, based at Saint James Hospital, Dublin. MISA promotes coordinated patient-centred care, and high quality educational and training programmes for patients, acting as a centre of excellence that combines clinical care of older patients with research into the challenges of ageing. MISA’s goal is to advance the conditions for successful ageing. In 2016, MISA was commissioned by President Michael D. Higgins who spoke of the importance for older adults to enjoy active and fulfilled lives. He notes, “In a world where we can expect to see more and more people leading significantly longer lives, innovative and creative thought around the ageing process will become increasingly important”. To find out more about MISA, visit here.
Trinity EngAGE, the Centre for Research in Ageing provides formal leadership for the coordination of ageing research across disciplines, in collaboration with Trinity’s teaching hospitals, St James’s and Tallaght, and other Trinity and national and international research and non-governmental organisations.
At present 140 Trinity researchers are actively working on age-related research across all domains in a systematic way:
Mind: brain ageing, mental health
Body: stroke and heart disease, falls and syncope
Social Environment: population health, end-of-life, elder abuse, healthcare services; intergenerational transfers, pensions and financial security
Built Environment: technology innovations, smart cities
Some of the challenges and opportunities of population ageing that Trinity researchers are addressing include:
- The biology of ageing and frailty
- Steps that individuals and society can take to enhance healthy ageing, 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 ageing populations, income security and health care financing
- How best to ensure that the contribution of the older population to society is enhanced