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TILDA, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at Trinity College Dublin, is stepping into a new age by recruiting new participants for the next phase of its research. From cardiovascular conditions to caring for grandchildren, from undiagnosed diabetes to the power of a positive attitude, TILDA, the most comprehensive study of adults aged 50 years and over in Ireland, has spent over a decade researching the ageing process. The group of 8,500 participants that began with the project in 2009 has aged along with the study, making it necessary for TILDA to recruit a new, nationally representative group aged 50-to-62 years. 

The information collected by TILDA has been used for a significant number of research projects on ageing and has helped to identify priorities and policies on ageing related to health and wellbeing, healthcare needs, caregiving and retirement nationally and internationally. As a longitudinal study, TILDA revisits participants every two years collecting the same information, to allow the measurement of changes over time and investigation of the drivers of those changes. 

Since 2009, TILDA study results have been used in shaping clinical practice and training, national health and economic policies, and in the development of national and regional age-friendly policies in Ireland. More recently, a series of reports from TILDA were produced to inform Ireland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Researchers are now undertaking a ‘replenishment’ of the study comprising new participants aged 50-to-62 years from all areas in the Republic of Ireland. Once again, TILDA will use a random selection process to ensure the study cohort is representative of the overall population of Ireland. The need to maintain this representativeness is the reason the study can’t simply look for volunteer participants. 

Replenishment is standard practice internationally in longitudinal studies of ageing and is important for the continuation of the study and expanding the research capabilities of the data collected. The experience of a person who is 50 in 2022 will be different to that of a person who was 50 in 2012, or earlier. New participants will allow researchers to capture and assess these differences across a wide range of lifestyle factors over the next 10 years. 

Prof Rose Anne Kenny, Principal Investigator at TILDA, said: “One of the greatest demographic and social transformations facing Ireland is the ageing of its population, increased life expectancy and a reduction in fertility rates. Globally, this will see proportions of people 60 and over increase from 11.7 per cent today up 21 per cent by 2050, equating to two billion people worldwide. While ageing carries many challenges, it also presents opportunities. By providing high-quality data, we can drive informed decision-making at all levels and propel ageing research in Ireland into a position of global leadership and ensure lower levels of disability and better, data-driven health and social care services.” 

TILDA is in the process of randomly selecting households across the country for inclusion in the study replenishment. Based on home addresses, TILDA interviewers will call to the homes of potential participants aged 50-to-62 years, or households will receive a letter and information leaflet inviting them to join.