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Leading figures from Ireland's science community review a "unique" study on ageing

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The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a 10-year prospective study of the health, social and economic circumstances of a representative sample of 8,000 people aged 50 years and older.
It is due to be completed in 2017 and TILDA's Scientific Advisory Board met in Trinity College Dublin on 16 and 17 May for an appraisal of the project.
The €30 million research project will provide policymakers and service providers with in–depth and reliable information needed to plan for the future needs of older people.
On TILDA’s potential impact at the EU level, Professor Rose-Anne Kenny of Trinity College Dublin said, “TILDA will provide a very 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."
The TILDA project represents an estimated one in 140 of Ireland´s over-50s and is unique in that it aims to translate its research findings into practice in repeated ´waves´ every two years.
Its researchers will work closely with policy makers and NGOs with the aim being to disseminate early findings of their results.
Key findings to date emphasise the enormous contribution that older people make to society in Ireland as well as identifying risk factors for heart disease, stroke and dementia and opportunities to improve pension and financial literacy.

Keynote speakers at the two-day event, attended by 16 international PIs from other similar longitudinal studies, included Prof Kenny and Research Fellows Orna Donoghue and Vincent O'Sullivan.
They were joined by Ciaran Finucane, who specializes in biological engineering, in an opening debate on TILDA's current activities.
Other guest speakers included Claire O'Regan, another Research Fellow, and Cathal McCrory, who is specializing in psychology. Both took part in a debate on how research output has led to new concepts.
By 2040, the conference heard there will be an estimated 1.3 million people aged over 65 years in Ireland, representing 20-25 per cent of its population. 

A population with between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 years in the future is expected to have significant social and economic implications at an individual, family and societal level.

This, participants were told, will pose challenges but also brings many opportunities as older people continue to make a major contribution in society as consumers, workers, caregivers, child-minders and as volunteers.
The Irish cohort has experienced dramatic social and economic change from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to the ´Celtic Tiger ´ before slumping back into recession.
The TILDA study will demonstrate how such societal swings over a short timeframe can influence everything from attitudes and mental and physical health to pension planning, employment and emigration.
The Irish situation, it was said, is particularly challenging as Ireland has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in Europe.

The health, social, economic, environmental and genetic factors which contribute to such a strikingly higher mortality are as of yet unknown but the TILDA project aims to help provide some answers.
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Jessica Hadjis
ISC Intelligence in Science
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Editor’s Note
The Irish LongituDinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a study of a representative cohort of over 8500 people resident in Ireland aged 50+, charting their health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period. The second wave of data collection commenced this year. TILDA is unique amongst longitudinal studies internationally in the breadth of physical, mental health and cognitive measures collected.