Ministers for Health announce €15 million investment to support research on ageing well in Ireland

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Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, have announced €15 million in funding to progress new rounds of data collection for The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) to support research on ageing well in Ireland.

The Health Research Board (HRB) will manage the funding to progress the new rounds of data collection for TILDA up to 2030. This follows a thorough international peer review process and a positive independent review of outcomes and impacts from TILDA to-date.

The funding will support TILDA at Trinity College Dublin to collect information on health, economic and social circumstances of a representative group of adults, aged 50 years and over, between 2023 and 2030.

Minister Donnelly said, “In the next 20 years, an estimated one in five people will be over the age of 65. While it is great that people are living longer, it is important to ensure that more of these years are spent in good health and that older persons can continue to live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. TILDA’s research activities focus on informing a whole-of-Government approach to ageing and will help to make Ireland a great place to grow old.

“This new funding will enhance evidence to ensure that supports are directed to where they are needed most, in all areas that impact the experience of ageing in Ireland.”

Minister Butler said, “This is a hugely significant investment into research that will shape the care of older people in Ireland. It will help us deliver on our commitment to an Age Friendly Ireland and shows how this Government really values older people.”

Chief Executive of the HRB, Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, said, “Our rigorous review process demonstrated that TILDA is highly regarded by stakeholders nationally and internationally. TILDA outputs are amongst the top 25% most cited academic publications worldwide. More importantly, there is clear evidence that TILDA has informed policy and practice across many areas such as nursing home responses to COVID-19, dental services coverage in rural areas and demand for home support services for people aged over 65 years. We look forward to seeing the impact of this next round of funding in years to come”.

Some key deliverables for the next phase of the study will include:

  • Collect data on a nationally representative sample of people aged 45 and older in Ireland, and to examine factors that influence healthy ageing.
  • Inform future service planning and delivery, and help realise the goals of national policies, programmes, and services in Ireland such as those envisaged in Sláintecare.
  • Provide a platform and infrastructure to support research and innovation activities, providing education and training for the next generation of researchers.
  • Continuation of Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) in codesign and engagement, and widening engagement with community groups and representative organisations.
  • Transfer of all existing and newly collected data to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Administrative Data Centre to deliver expanded and timely access to TILDA data for statistical purposes to support policy, planning and research, while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of study participants.
  • Putting structured mechanisms in place to enable regular feedback between policymakers and the TILDA team, to be led by the Department of Health on behalf of wider cross-Government actors.

The Principal Investigator of TILDA, Regius Professor Rose-Anne Kenny, Chair of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin and Director of the Mercer Institute of Successful Ageing said,  “Utilisation of continuous longitudinal data, such as TILDA, provides a solid evidence base for healthcare policy, informs new policy and evaluates the impact of new models of care delivery. TILDA data is harmonised to 26 international longitudinal studies on ageing, enabling cross-country comparisons.  TILDA will work closely with funders and policy makers to build more resilient and efficient health and social care policies, programmes and services, thereby improving health and well-being for all.”

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a large-scale, population-representative, longitudinal study on ageing, established in 2009.

In longitudinal studies, researchers repeatedly collect data on the same individuals over a period of time, to detect any changes that might occur and to understand the characteristics and needs of the study population, thus informing policy and practice. Data collection includes information on all aspects of health, economic and social circumstances from people aged 45 and older in a series of data collection waves once every two years. Assessments include home interviews, self-completion questionnaires and detailed health assessments. TILDA is currently supported by dedicated funding from the Department of Health with management and support from the Health Research Board (HRB).

TILDA’s value as a national resource was particularly demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic when reports were produced from study data to inform policy across a broad range of areas including frailty and infection risks, mental health, physical function, quality of life, vaccination, nursing homes, loneliness and social isolation, internet access and technology, and disability.

An “Independent programme of evaluation of the State’s investment in The Irish LongituDinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)”, commissioned by the Health Research Board and conducted by UCD-Consult, is available to download from the HRB website at www.hrb.ie/publications/.