Borough’s over-50s population to jump by 19,000

Professor Ian Young from Queen's University's 'NICOLA' project - Northern Ireland's largest public health research project. INNT 22-503CON
Professor Ian Young from Queen's University's 'NICOLA' project - Northern Ireland's largest public health research project. INNT 22-503CON

More than 500 older people living in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council area are taking part in a major public health study.

A total of 576 over-50s across the borough, men and women, are participating in the Queen’s University project aimed at understanding issues around Northern Ireland’s ageing population.

NICOLA - the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing - suggests that between 2012 and 2037 the number of over-50s in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area will increase by 19,204, rising from just 32 per cent of the population to 43 per cent.

The project also notes that official statistics indicate that there will be a dramatic increase in the number of people aged 85 and over living locally, rising almost three-fold to 6,959 by 2037.

The university study is seeking to understand the profound implications this ‘ageing revolution’ will have for society and policy makers. As part of its work NICOLA, which is Northern Ireland’s largest public health research project, is following the lives of 576 randomly selected over-50s from the local council area.

Professor Ian Young, Principal Investigator of the NICOLA Project, said: “NICOLA is the largest public health research project ever undertaken in Northern Ireland and will track the lives of 8,500 over-50s across Northern Ireland as they grow older. Over 200 participants from the Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council area have taken part in the first stage of the project and we’re now ready to move into the next phase.”

“Some local participants have already completed their health assessment whilst a new tranche of over-50s are currently being contacted to join the project.”

NICOLA consists of three stages - an interview conducted in the home, a questionnaire and a health assessment which takes place at the new Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility at Belfast City Hospital.

The assessments, completed by registered nurses, include blood pressure readings, brain function (thinking) tests, blood sample collection and a detailed eye examination using equipment not available elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Follow-up interviews will be conducted every two years.

Professor Young added: “NICOLA will help us change the way we live for the better by helping shape at least ten major Government policies, tackling everything from pensions and benefits to dementia services and fuel poverty.

“In addition to gaining a better understanding of their own health and wellbeing, participants will leave a tangible legacy for future generations by giving policy makers, for the first time, real data upon which to base their decisions.”

NICOLA is supported by the Public Health Agency, the Commissioner for Older People of Northern Ireland, Age NI and the Northern Ireland Executive.

Across Northern Ireland it’s projected that the number of over-50s will increase by almost a third (181,000 people) between 2012 and 2037. For the first time there will be more over 65s than under-16s - an unprecedented change in Northern Ireland’s population.

The projected changes in Antrim & Newtownabbey’s population suggest that by 2037 the area will be just slightly ‘greyer’ than the Northern Ireland average with 43 per cent aged over 50 compared to 42 per cent across the region.

For more information about the NICOLA project email or contact 028 9063 3078.