The research, led by Trinity College, Dublin, will chart the health, social, economic and environmental status of around 800 persons aged 40 and older with an intellectual disability over a 10-year period.
It is part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) being undertaken by a cross-institutional multidisciplinary team of experts to meet the challenge of Ireland’s increasingly greying population.
TILDA was launched by Health Minister Mary Harney in November 2006 and is charting the health, social and economic circumstances of up to 10,000 people over the age of 50 during a 10-year period.
The study on ageing in persons with an intellectual disability is the first of its kind in Europe and the only study with the potential of comparing the ageing of people with intellectual disability directly with the general ageing population.
A pilot study will start early next year and the full study, funded by the Health Research Board, will commence in September 2009.
Participants will be drawn from the National Intellectual Disability Database that has in excess of 25,000 registrations and is managed by the research board on behalf of the Department of Health and Children.
The head of Trinity’s school of nursing and midwifery and principle investigator, Prof Mary McCarron, said there was little known about the ageing of people with intellectual disability in Ireland, or in any country.
“We now have an opportunity to hear their voices and gather critical information,” she said
Prof McCarron said the study represented a major step towards building the evidence on which to base the development of sound policies and services for people with a disability and also offered a unique opportunity to compare findings with that of the general ageing population.
Participation in the study will be voluntary and the board is committed to supporting the first three-year stage of data collection and analysis.
Additional resources will be pursued to support subsequent stages of data collection and analysis.
Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life are supporting TILDA and the other education and research bodies involved are Dundalk Institute of Technology, the Economic and Social Research Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork and University College Dublin.
The principal investigator for the research is Rose Anne Kenny, professor of geriatric medicine at TCD and head of the Department of Medical Gerontology.