HaPAI Research

The Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI) was established as part of the National Positive Ageing Strategy to support and use research about people as they age to better inform policy responses to population in Ireland. As part of this work, the HaPAI provides accepted and trusted measures of positive ageing in Ireland. In 2016 the HaPAI reported the first set of key national positive ageing indicators available here. In 2016-2018 HaPAI have been engaged in a programme of research which was outlined in the HaPAI research strategy available here.

Below there are research review articles on the topics of:

  1. Elder abuse.
  2. Views and stereotypes of ageing.
  3. Promoting brain health.

These review articles are the output of collaboration between the HaPAI team (Sinead Shannon and Sarah Gibney) and Professor Mark Morgan, Cregan Professor of Education & Psychology, Dublin City University.

You will also find links to reports on ‘age-friendly’ domains, using data from the HaPAI Age-friendly Cities and Counties Survey (2016).

Promoting Brain Health 


Dementia is not a single disease, but rather a term used to refer to a number of conditions that cause damage to brain cells, and this damage effects multiple brain functions including memory, behaviour and our ability to complete everyday tasks. Dementia is a progressive condition that largely affects older people and the course of the condition may be gradual, and sometimes subtle (1). In 2011 The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) found that 37% of the over 50s in Ireland show evidence of mild cognitive impairment (2), which is considered to be a transitional phase between normal ageing and the development of dementia. For this reason, cognitive impairment is a key indicator of ‘Brain Health’ within the National Positive Ageing Indicator Framework in 2016 (3).

According to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2016, there were 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia. Furthermore, while the majority of adults in Ireland understand that dementia is a disease of the brain, fewer are aware of modifiable factors that can increase or decrease the risk of dementia. While not all forms of dementia are preventable, there are many things that people can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia. Both the National Dementia Strategy (2014) and the National Positive Health Strategy (2013) in Ireland highlight the importance of promoting public awareness and better understanding surrounding brain health and dementia. In 2016 the HSE launched the Dementia Understand Together campaign, to increase awareness of dementia to promote brain health among the Irish population, at all stages of the life course.

In this article we discuss interventions for older age-groups to improve brain health and discuss research evidence surrounding experiences in earlier life that impact on cognitive function in later life. We discuss interventions that aim to have a direct effect on promoting brain health, and interventions to reduced risky lifestyle factors that are associated with brain health. The latter draws on examples of comprehensive approaches that seek to address social determinants of health, often referred to as the ‘causes of the causes’ of poor health. We also number of important factors that are associated with brain health, including staying physically active and staying socially and mentally active.

Articles cited in the above summary:

  1. Cahill S. Creating excellence in dementia care. 2012 [cited 2017 Mar 27]; Available from: http://rian.ie/en/item/redirect/record_id/52636
  2. Barrett A, Burke H, Cronin H, Hickey A, Kamiya Y. Fifty plus in Ireland 2011: first results from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). 2011 [cited 2017 Mar 27]; Available from: http://epubs.rcsi.ie/psycholrep/45/
  3. Department of Health. Positive Ageing 2016 National Indicators Report. Dublin; 2016.

You can read the full article by clicking the link below: 

HaPAI Research Review Promoting Brain Health

Find out more about HSE Dementia Understand Together Campaign here

View and Stereotypes of Ageing 


Experiences of age-related discrimination and positive perceptions of ageing are key indicators of positive ageing in Ireland. In the past 2 years, 45% of adults aged 50+ have felt discriminated against because of their age and, separately, 25% of adults aged 50+ do not see ageing as a time of personal growth (Department of Health, 2016).

Negative stereotypes regarding older people can result in beliefs and expectations that are pertinent to older people and also for those with whom they interact.  Such expectations can result in older people being treated less positively than other age-groups.  More significantly negative stereotypes can result in self-fulfilling prophecies for older people themselves that can result in less satisfactory cognitive performance, physical inactivity, and reduce feelings of well-being.

In this article we raise and discuss number of important questions pertaining to attitudes and beliefs regarding older people.  We begin with the question, what are the most common beliefs that people share regarding older people?  We consider how we can best described these beliefs and if they fit into the category of ‘stereotypes’. We also question if there is there any evidence regarding the basis for such beliefs?  We then explore how images and stereotypes of ageing are maintained, with particular reference to the role of the mass media and age-segregation.   We then consider some of the consequences of beliefs and images regarding aging, and how older people cope with stereotypes. In the final section of the article we consider how negative beliefs can be challenged in modern society given the variety of changes related to ageing including longevity and the demonstrated competence and continued contribution of older people in so many areas of life including work, social activities and cognitive capacity.

You can read the full article by clicking the link: 

 HaPAI Research Review Views and Stereotypes of Ageing

Elder Abuse: Recent Developments in Research and Prevention


The number of substantiated report of elder abuse in a given year is a key indicator of positive ageing in Ireland. This indicator draws on the most recent data from the Health Service Executive (HSE) Elder Abuse Services report (1). In total, 1,379 referrals were made in 2014 and 437 (32%) were substantiated. This means that an allegation was made and that there was substantial evidence that the client had been abused. The types of abuse that are considered within this indicator can be psychological, physical, financial, sexual, neglect, and self-neglect.

In this article we raise several important issues surrounding the measurement of elder abuse, and we discuss some of the recent research literature and thinking surrounding this complex issue. We begin with an overview of the different estimates of elder abuse in different countries and we highlight some of the methodological challenges that arise in providing precise estimates of elder abuse prevalence. These include the time-frame considered, the study setting, how the data is collected, and what types of abuse are included. We then move to discuss the different risk factors for elder abuse that have been identified in the research and policy literature, paying particular attention to individual factors such as low income and deprivation, physical and mental health, and social supports. Self-neglect is an area that has received somewhat less attention compared with other forms of abuse, and we discuss some of the main issues surrounding self-neglect later in the article. Finally, we consider and discuss some approaches that aim to prevent elder abuse in terms of supporting the role of caregivers, national approaches such as helplines and money management, and strengthening the role of multi-disciplinary community teams and integrating keyworkers.

You can read the full article by clicking the link: 

HaPAI Research Review Elder Abuse