Ireland’s over-50s disprove sad and lonely stereotype

STEREOTYPES of older people as sad, lonely and a burden on society are proven outdated by a study that shows Ireland’s over-50s are happier, better integrated and more financially independent than usually thought.

People aged over 50 scored an average 75% of the highest score in the happiness ratings, while just one-in-17 suffer social isolation.

They are also more likely to have given large financial or other gifts to their children in the past 10 years than to have received them from their offspring. Giving €20,000 was most common, compared to €1,000 their children gifted them.

Dr Virpi Timonen of Trinity College Dublin, one of the research team, said: “We think that older people are lonely, older people don’t enjoy life, older people are a drain on their family and society. These findings rebut the stereotypes.”

The findings are the first from the €29 million study, which began in 2006 and is monitoring the lives of more than 8,000 over-50s in the largest exercise of its kind ever undertaken here.

TILDA, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, is co-funded by the state, Irish Life and philanthropist Chuck Feeney, and will continue until 2018.

It wasn’t all good news, as the study discovered high levels of undiagnosed health problems, most notably that 58% of men and 49% of women with high blood pressure did not know they had the condition.

Also, only 20% of those researchers found to have clear symptoms of depression had received medical treatment for the illness.

TCD’s Prof Rose Anne Kenny, lead researcher on the project, said: “There is a huge unmet health need which is not a problem we are raising — it’s an opportunity to identify earlier these diseases.”

Health Minister James Reilly welcomed the study, which he said would help the Government meet the challenges of managing an ageing population.


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