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Stay Engaged To Protect Emotional & Physical Well-Being Through The Decades

Initial results from an ongoing Irish study of 8,000 people 50 and over shed light on the health needs as well as the emotional outlook of seniors. Findings show health declines after 65, evidence that more attention needs to be paid to issues from high blood pressure to depression to preserve quality of life.

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a study of 8,000 older people aged 50 and over and the most comprehensive ever conducted on aging in Ireland. Between 2009 and 2011, participants were randomly selected across Ireland and interviewed about many aspects of their lives including issues such as health, financial circumstances and quality of life. Almost 85 per cent of the participants also underwent a rigorous health assessment. The same group will be interviewed every two years until 2018. Further health assessments will be undertaken on the participants in 2014 and 2018. Principal Investigator of TILDA and Professor of Medical Gerontology, Professor Rose Anne Kenny said, “The importance of this study cannot be understated. By collecting and analyzing this data, we will be able to develop a much deeper understanding of the lives and circumstances of older people and of the factors which lead to good health and good quality of life in older ages.” While the findings are designed to create policies for caring for older people in Ireland, study results also show how older people the world over can stay health and have a greater quality of life by being vigilant about regular medical exams, engaging with family and friends and actively participating in the community.

When the participants were asked about their quality of life, 85 percent reported that they often enjoy the things they do and 81 percent often look forward to each day. Over 80 percent feel that life is full of opportunities. Many seniors help both their grown children and their grandchildren, contribute significantly to their communities and do voluntary work at least once or twice a month. Being engaged in these ways is often seen as vital for maintaining quality of life.

The report also shows the extent to which health declines across age groups. Seventy-nine percent of those between 50 and 64 say that their health is excellent, very good or good, but this falls to 66 per cent for people aged 75 and older. The proportion of people with high blood pressure increases from 29.7 percent for those 50 to 64 years old to 53.7 percent for those 75 and over. A constant finding across the report is that those with higher levels of education and wealth are likely to enjoy better outcomes later in life.

On the issue of mental health, 10 percent of respondents reported clinically significant depressive symptoms while a further 18 percent reported “sub-threshold” depression. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment is essential to combat the effects of depression, which are often overlooked in seniors.

By taking care of emotional and physical needs, seniors can enjoy greater quality of life for longer.