GAA/TILDA partnership proving to be a real success story
By Cian O’Connell
“I think it couldn't have gone better,” Professor Rose Anne Kenny reflects on the eve of the last GAA/TILDA organised ‘How to Age Well’ seminars.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh provides the backdrop for the final event of 2019 with the collaboration offering hope that a meaningful and lasting relationship has been established.
Professor Kenny has repeatedly stressed the value and importance of the research carried out by TILDA, but connecting with people throughout Ireland remains critical.
“I think it is really a great model,” Kenny adds. “It is very important for universities, particularly, to leave the ivory towers with the valuable research they have, and to get out into rural Ireland to share the data as quickly as possible.
“That is the quickest way to get it into the community. From my perspective coupling with the GAA couldn't have been a better partnership. They already have rich networks, they have a vested interested in health, their Healthy Clubs initiative is symptomatic of that.
“From the GAA's perspective, I would say that two thirds aren't engaged with the GAA as members in the audiences. That is super for the GAA because they are now extending their reach to a new audience and network.
“From our perspective in Trinity sharing our research as quickly as possible with people is important because our mission is to make Ireland the best place in the world to grow old.
“So it is fantastically valuable for us because of the GAA's rich network. Then for the GAA it is very valuable because the research attracts a new audience. It is a great initiative.”
Assisting people to engage socially is vital with Kenny hugely encouraged by how the various parties involved have complemented one another.
“Absolutely, and our message starts at age 40,” Kenny states. “All of the advice we are giving and the research we are sharing is relevant to people who are 40 and older. It is applicable to any age group. That is the richness of what has been happening.
“We are getting the message to all ages. People of all ages are coming, but mostly are 60 and over. The way the GAA have structured it means it is always a fun occasion. It isn't just in and out to a lecture. They have a champion there, refreshments are there, people have time to network. At every single occasion we've had music.
“The All Ireland Ceilí band runners up played in Mayo, in Donegal we had a 100 persons choir with people aged from 10-86. They performed afterwards in the foyer so it is a joyous occasion.
“It goes on for two hours, the lecture is only 45 minutes, the rest of it is about social engagement and networking. That is one of our key messages from the research, how important that is for healthy living.”
The reaction has been positive with Kenny acknowledging how fulfilling it has been for her personally also. “I'm used to speaking to academic audiences and sharing research at that level,” Kenny replies.
“For me it has been hugely worthwhile, first of all to distil the research into a message that the public can get. That is challenging.
“It has been a really good learning experience for me. I've had people come up after some of the lectures thanking me and asking me questions saying that they had never been at a lecture before except from maybe a priest at church. For me that is a very humbling experience.”
Last month’s event in Castlebar, though, brought immense joy when Kenny showcased the All Ireland medals won by her father in the green and red of Mayo.
“Of any of the counties at a personal level that was the one that meant most to me because of my father's history with Mayo and my own,” Kenny says.
“I wear them to all of them, but that one it was particularly appreciated for very obvious reasons. It was great and it was lovely to have Andy Moran in, that made a big difference. The crowd were wonderful, very responsive. It was a fantastic reception and a great audience.”
Seamus Tuohy, Chairman of Mayo GAA’s Health and Wellbeing Committee, was satisfied with how the event unfolded in the west last month.
“It was very successful, there was a fantastic turnout, a fantastic response from right around the county. We were delighted with the success.
“When you put on an event like this you are concerned about getting a response from the general population, but definitely the people of Mayo responded well to the whole thing.
“It brought an added touch to the whole event with the fact that her father played on the 1950s Mayo team winning an All Ireland medal. She had that medal around her neck on the night.
“It was a special touch, it definitely delighted the people who turned up on the night. Her connections with Mayo made it that bit more special.
“This study has been going on for more than 10 years and a lot of people in Mayo knew a fair bit about TILDA and participated in the whole study on positive ageing. A lot of those people were there on the night which added to the whole thing.
“The Health and Wellbeing Section is something we have been working on since 2013. Within any club or parish not alone do we care about football, but we also care about the Health and Wellbeing side of its members within the parish. This is a big part of every club now.”
Offering valuable assistance is precisely what GAA clubs throughout Ireland are actively trying to do.
For further information on GAA/TILDA ‘How to Age Well’ click here.