The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), led by Trinity College Dublin, recently presented key findings to the EU Parliament. TILDA is a large-scale, nationally representative study of people aged 50 and over in Ireland. By exploring the ageing process and considering the factors that relate to successful ageing, it seeks to plan and develop appropriate health, social and economic policies.
Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Trinity and TILDA’s founder and principal investigator, Rose Anne Kenny, presented the seminar with many of her Trinity collaborators. Those in attendance included Professors of Psychology, Ian Robertson and Fiona Newell, Research Professor of Neural Engineering, Richard Reilly, Edward Kennedy Professor of Health Policy and Management, Charles Normand, Research Professor, Alan Barrett, AbbVie General Manager, Mr Ryan Quigley. Members of European Parliament, Heinz Becker of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and Phil Prendergast of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, were also present.
TILDA generates evidence-based research, which has led to a change in terms of our knowledge and understanding of ageing. This approach is helping to unravel the factors that underlie physical, psychological and socioeconomic factors influencing healthy ageing and ‘healthy life years’, which are the number of years of health that people enjoy past the age of 65. This information is a focus of European policy.
Professor Kenny said: “TILDA will provide a valuable input to policymakers in EU in helping formulate evidence base policies. As the EU prepares to launch Horizon 2020 it will be important to have long-term perspectives contributing to the policy debate around future health care.”
Member of the European Parliament, Emer Costello, opened the seminar and outlined the policy context in which the seminar took place, noting that Europe’s ageing population presents a significant health and economic challenge. Professor Kenny then explained that the world’s rapidly ageing population is one of the greatest challenges of our time. She believes that the first person to live to 150 may have already been born.
Important insights presented from TILDA included:
– Quality of Life continues to improve after age 50 and peaks between the ages of 65 and 75. At 83 years of age, Quality of Life is equivalent to that at 50 years.
– Older people contribute to society by supporting parents, children and grandchildren in both care and money contributions, and engage in social activities such as volunteering.
– Adverse childhood events significantly influence health status in later life.
– Simple health monitoring can identify undiagnosed health issues. For example, an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) was undiagnosed in over 40% of people aged 50 and over in the TILDA study. It is a risk factor for stroke and heart attacks.
– Working is good for your brain. Peer groups in the work place may be more influential than the state in determining retirement age. Working, education, and social engagement enhance brain function and protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
– TILDA is developing and testing a range of new technologies including mobile technologies for health screening and falls prevention. Information from TILDA is used to develop further studies to test interventions in different cohorts.
TILDA is invited to return to the EU Parliament in 2015 to run a showcase workshop for the EU Parliament and the EU Commission.
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