TILDA study proves you are as old as you feel

The Irish LongituDinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a large-scale, nationally representative, longitudinal study on ageing in Ireland. TILDA collects information on all aspects of health, economic and social circumstances from people aged 50 and over in a series of data collection waves once every two years.

Their latest findings are that negative attitudes towards ageing among older adults can adversely affect their health or the rate at which their health declines.

Even though the vast majority of older adults are not physically, cognitively or mentally impaired, there is a common age-related stereotype that older adults are physically weak, forgetful, stubborn and selfish. The TILDA study has now show that such stereotypes may be actually affecting the health of older people.

TILDA participants’ memories were assessed using lists of words that they had to remember later, their ability to pay attention during boring tasks, and how quickly they could come up with lists of different words or animals. They also completed a series of physical tasks to assess how frail they were. Participants completed the Timed Up-and-Go, a simple mobility test where they stood up from a chair, walked 3 metres, turned around, walked back to the chair and sat down again. They were asked to squeeze a dynamometer as tightly as possible to measure their strength. They were also asked questions about how physically active they were, their mood, what medications they were taking, what, if any, health conditions they had and whether they were working or not.

The study then found that older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing showed a decline in walking speed and cognitive abilities. Frail participants with negative attitudes towards aging had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail.   The complete Research Brief by Dr Deirdre Robertson can be downloaded from the TILDA website, which can be accessed here.

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