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

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 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."

Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Linda Doyle, welcomed the news:

“Today’s announcement is further validation of the massive impact and potential of TILDA. We are so proud that this national programme is hosted here in Trinity College Dublin.

“TILDA’s research has already provided a sound evidence-base for policy makers and practitioners. It has had a significant impact on our understanding of population ageing in Ireland, and I am looking forward to seeing the future outputs from this work.

“I wish the TILDA team continued success!”

The Principal Investigator of TILDA, Regius 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.”

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."

The “Independent programme of evaluation of the State’s investment in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)” was commissioned by the Health Research Board and conducted by UCD-Consult. The aim of this evaluation was to collate and examine TILDA’s outputs, outcomes, and impacts, and to assess the effectiveness of TILDA in delivering on the objectives specified in the grant agreement with the HRB. In addition, the evaluation assessed TILDA’s performance and impact in the context of comparable cohort studies internationally. The evaluation found that the outputs from TILDA are of a high quality and continue to provide a strong evidence base for addressing current and emerging issues associated with population ageing in Ireland across health, economic, and social systems. The evaluation is available to download from the HRB website here.

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; and
  • 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 Director General of the Central Statistics Office, Pádraig Dalton, stated:

“The CSO is pleased to support TILDA and the development of vital evidence-based policy around growing old in Ireland. Maximising the statistical value and utility of societal data is central to the CSO’s purpose and by facilitating TILDA data access to the research community under relevant legislation, in a manner that is secure and controlled, the CSO will help harness insights from this important work.”

Read more from Trinity College Dublin, The Department of Health, and The Health Research Board.