The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) celebrated ten years of research in Trinity College Dublin earlier this month. TILDA’s research focuses on understanding and improving ageing in Ireland.
Established in 2006, TILDA was created to provide an evidence base for understanding ageing. Before this, there was minimal information available in Ireland on the prevalence and incidence of disease, and the economic and social well-being of the older population.
Led by Professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity, Rose Anne Kenny, key impacts of TILDA’s ten years of research include its influence on a wide range of government decisions which affect older adults, healthcare practice in Irish hospitals and GP surgeries, public awareness health and safety campaigns to its contribution to long range planning for services and economic policy.
The 8500 participants involved are interviewed at home every two years and take part in an in-depth health assessment every four years. TILDA currently has 34 staff, who have written 108 papers in peer reviewed publications. TILDA is also part of more than 45 national research collaborations and 25 international collaborations, as well as being engaged in 13 other international longitudinal studies on ageing, which allows cross country comparisons of key indicators such as health, wealth and happiness.
TILDA’s research have been utilised by policy makers, NGOs and others as the evidence base for 52 policy and strategy documents covering areas as diverse as transport, health, jobs, pensions, carers, residential and home care, health and road safety public awareness campaigns, capacity planning for services, medical care and practice, IT, health insurance, dementia prevention, volunteering, taxation and the economy.
There are many examples of TILDA’s work significant improving living conditions and healthcare of the elderly in Ireland. Following TILDA’s revelation that two thirds of older people have high blood pressure, which can often go undiagnosed, TILDA, with funding from the HRB, rolled out a nationwide programme to community health nurses to encourage more frequent blood pressure monitoring, with help from the Health Research Board.
TILDA’s research on walking speeds revealed that one in three older adults cannot cross the street in the time allotted at signalised crossings. TILDA researchers are now working with local authorities to assess signal timing settings and are providing evidence for public safety campaigns with the Road Safety Authority.
In addition, TILDA found that Atrial fibrillation (Afib), a common cause of stroke, heart failure and dementia, was 2.3% in the population, eventually rising to 20% in men over 80 years old. Of those with an arrhythmia, one third were unaware of the arrhythmia and one third were incorrectly treated. The Irish Heart Foundation translated these findings into a national awareness campaign and now, the National Screening Programme Guidelines use this TILDA data.
Professor Kenny said: “One of the greatest demographic and social transformations facing Ireland is the ageing of its population, increased life expectancy and a reduction in fertility rates. Globally this will see proportions of people 60 and over increase from 11.7% today up 21% by 2050 equating to 2 billion people worldwide. Whereas global ageing carries many challenges, it also presents opportunities. By providing high quality data, we can drive informed decision making at all levels and propel ageing research in Ireland into a position of global leadership.”
The study was initially funded by a philanthropic gift from Irish Life and from Atlantic Philanthropies in addition to funding from the Department of Health.
For more information on TILDA’s research, visit tilda.ie.