Press Release

New research confirms older people make an enormous contribution to Irish society – Minister Corcoran Kennedy

  • Half of older adults provide regular childcare to their grandchildren
  • Half engage in volunteering
  • The vast majority of financial transfers are from older adults to their children rather than vice versa

Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, said today that the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) WAVE 3 Research Findings prove that older people make an enormous contribution to Irish society. The Minister was speaking at the launch of the research at Trinity College Dublin today.

TILDA is a multiannual longitudinal study of the health, social and economic circumstances of 8,000 people aged 50 years and over. It is the first study of its kind in Ireland and has been conducted since its inception by Trinity College Dublin

Wave 3 of TILDA was conducted in 2014/2015 and today’s report maps changes in older people’s health and wellbeing since the first wave of TILDA data collection in 2009-2011. The results show that half of older adults provide regular childcare to their grandchildren, half engage in volunteering to varying degrees, and the vast majority of financial transfers are from older adults to their children rather than vice versa. Therefore, far from later years being a time characterised by decline and increased dependency, older adults continue to make valuable contributions to society.

In relation to older people’s health, the results highlight that both visits to the emergency department and hospitalisation rates have increased in the over 80s since Wave 1 in 2010. In addition, many treatable conditions remain untreated in the over 50s. These include hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, osteopenia and atrial fibrillation, which are the key risk factors for stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and injurious falls. Falls are common and pain, urinary incontinence, hearing loss and depression are often not reported and therefore go untreated. High obesity rates among older adults have previously been reported by TILDA, and the Wave 3 results show poor adherence to the 2012 Department of Health food pyramid recommendations.

Commenting on the results, the Minister said, “Today’s report confirms that older people make an enormous contribution to Irish society through volunteering and supporting their families in a variety of ways. The health findings of Wave 3 show that we have a way to go in optimising the health and wellbeing of older people. My Department and the HSE will examine these findings with a view to identifying the responses we need to ensure the best outcomes for older people. With regard to the high rates of emergency department presentation and the high rates of hospitalisation identified in Wave 3, my Department and the HSE are undertaking a number of related initiatives both to avoid hospitalisation and to ensure rapid discharge once the acute phase of a person’s treatment is over.”

“From my own point of view as Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the high rate of overweight and obesity among older adults continues to be a cause for concern, as is the lack of adherence to the food pyramid. My Department has recently published an obesity policy which includes a focus on older adults, and we have published a revised food pyramid for the entire population, with specific food portion guidelines for various age groups including older adults. We are also working on a nutrition poliwhich will include a focus on the over 50s.”

The Minister concluded by saying that “As a longitudinal study with a health assessment, TILDA is a critical source of evidence to better understand ageing in Ireland over a sustained period of time and across a number of domains. TILDA provides evidence to inform public policy on health and wellbeing and across a wide range of other areas such as pensions and retirement, social inclusion, crime, housing and transport.”

“I am very happy that the Department of Health has been able to provide €10 million over the next five years to support the continuation of TILDA. I look forward to working with TILDA to ensure that policy-making is more and more based on good research and hard evidence.”