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€10 million funding for research on ageing

7 March 2017

The HRB will award and manage a new €10 million contract for TILDA, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, on behalf of the Department of Health.

TILDA, led by Prof Rose Anne Kenny in Trinity College Dublin, collects information on many aspects of health, economic and social circumstances among the ageing population. This provides a critical source of evidence to help practitioners, policy makers and planners to understand the ageing populations changing and growing needs over time.  

It is expected that by 2021, 14% of the Irish population will be age 65+ and by 2031 this age group will represent one in five Irish citizens. Understanding the health, social and economic implications of this is important.  

Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said, 

‘If our future health services are going to meet the needs of an ageing population, we need a picture of what it will look like. TILDA has made great advances in recent years to help understand the health, social and economic aspects of ageing. What we need to do is ensure this evidence informs policy and practice. As part of managing this renewed government investment of €10 million, the Health Research Board will actively work with TILDA and the Department of Health to set up a dedicated Knowledge Translation Group. The aim will be to  make sure that we ask the right questions to inform future health needs and that the data gathered reaches the right people to underpin changes in policy and practice’.  

The new funding of €10 million for TILDA comes on foot of the publication of the latest WAVE 3 figures from the group.

Key recommendations from this latest wave 3 data include:

Treatable conditions that contribute to disability
  • There is a need to challenge the notion that urinary incontinence is an inevitable part of ageing, and efforts should also focus on modifying risk factors for urinary incontinence such as smoking and obesity.
  • Screening for hearing loss at an earlier stage, and promotion of uptake of hearing aids, has the potential to improve the ageing experience for many.
  • The prevalence of depression and of treated depression has not changed over the past four years emphasizing the necessity for new approaches to raise awareness among older people as well as their families and healthcare professionals. Efforts to reduce the stigma around mental health in later life and to encourage older people to seek help from a healthcare professional when they are experiencing symptoms of depression are now imperative.
  • There is a need to increase awareness about pain and adequate pain management.  
Health service utilisation for the over 80s
  • The increase in ED attendance and hospital admissions for the over 80s has significant policy implications for implementation of admission avoidance services and for dedicated tailored care of the oldest old in emergency settings.
  • Innovations in early detection of risk factors and earlier interventions to avoid admission should be an important policy focus. 
Prevalence of untreated ‘treatable’ conditions
  • Hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, osteopenia and atrial fibrillation are the key risk factors for stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and injurious falls. Innovative policy interventions to raise awareness of these common and treatable disorders is critical.
  • National falls and syncope prevention services should be introduced. These are poorly served at present in Ireland, however there is strong evidence for benefit in falls and fracture prevention, coupled with significant reductions in healthcare costs and in particular in hospital costs.
Health insurance
  • Given that flexibility to switch insurer is key to a competitive market, the high market share of one health insurer merits a full examination and possibly changed policy considerations.  

The report, press release and the latest TILDA findings can be found on the Trinity College Dublin website

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