Trinity study to investigate the widespread impact of COVID-19 on older people

TILDA research will provide detail on changes in physical and mental health

A study being carried out by Trinity based researchers at the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) will delve into the changes that COVID-19 has brought about in the lives of Ireland’s older people. 6,000 people, aged 50 years and older, will participate in the nationwide survey. This will include both those being infected by the Coronavirus and those unaffected. 

The study will include both a questionnaire-based investigation into participants’ physical health, mood, socialisation, and quality of life that have been affected by the pandemic and also a collection of biological samples to establish accurate rates of the virus in the older population and determine particular risk factors. 

The researchers hope that the information gathered will help to develop policies that are effective in promoting the health and wellbeing of older members of the population as the government continues its response to changes in the crisis. It is common knowledge that older people are at greater risk in our current climate, with 92% of confirmed deaths between March 11 to May 15  being those aged 65 and over. 

Those aged 70 and over were advised to implement heightened social distancing measures and to “cocoon” in previous phases of the national recovery roadmap. The research aims to particularly look into the impacts this had on physical, psychological, and cognitive health, as well as their experiences of ageism during, and as a result of, the pandemic.

TILDA is in a position to compare this gathered data with its existing database of information on older people in Ireland, collected over a period of eleven years and before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator of TILDA and head researcher, said:

“For the past 11 years, TILDA has gathered comprehensive research information on all aspects of the overall health, economic and social circumstances of adults over 50 in Ireland. TILDA is a representative sample, which means that we can generalise the information to the entire population because of the epidemiological methods employed to recruit the TILDA participant sample. None of this is possible without the support of our committed TILDA participants.” 

“By linking our past data with their experience of the pandemic, we can assess a broad tapestry of how the pandemic has and will impact the lives of people in Ireland. Furthermore,  aligned with the analysis of biological samples, we will be able to explore what determines susceptibility both to infection and the response to fighting the infection. This is important information for scientists who are developing treatments and vaccinations. We look forward to providing a platform for the experience of older people to be heard.’’

Lucy Fitzsimmons

Lucy Fitzsimmons is the current Deputy SciTech Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Fresh Chemical Sciences student.