50’s shades of grey on increase in Ballymena

Professor Ian Young from Queen's University's 'NICOLA' project - Northern Ireland's largest public health research project - will be working with over 400 Ballymena people to understand our ageing population.
Professor Ian Young from Queen's University's 'NICOLA' project - Northern Ireland's largest public health research project - will be working with over 400 Ballymena people to understand our ageing population.

Ballymena’s over 50s population is expected to surge over the next two decades according to a major project undertaken by Queen’s University.

The project, which seeks to understand Northern Ireland’s ageing population has suggested that between 2012 and 2037 the number of over-50s in Mid & East Antrim Borough Council will increase by 16,489, rising from just 36% of the population to 47%. This will be the second highest proportion of any council in Northern Ireland.

The project also noted that official statistics indicate that there will be a dramatic increase in the number of those aged 85 and above living in the local council area, rising almost three-fold to 7,695 by 2037.

NICOLA - the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing – is seeking to understand the profound implications this ‘ageing revolution’ which will have for society and policy makers.

As part of its work ‘NICOLA’, which is Northern Ireland’s largest public health research project, will be following the lives of 448 people randomly selected over-50s from the Ballymena 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 300 participants from the local 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 will take place at the new Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility at Belfast City Hospital.

The assessments will include blood pressure readings, brain function (thinking) tests, blood sample collection and a detailed eye exam. 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.