IGS President's Update, 11th June 2021

A message from the President of the IGS – Professor Rose Anne Kenny 

 Dear Colleagues 

Thankfully, the country and our patients are emerging from the consequences of this past turbulent year. As a society, we have endeavored to change our model of practice during the pandemic, affording members access to frequent, stimulating webinars in topic areas which covered a wide number of relevant domains. Unfortunately, the recent HSE hacking episode meant that we had to cancel two important webinars which we have now re scheduled.

The topic of ‘Stroke Prevention’ will take place on  Thursday, 17th June from 15.00-16.30, moderated by Dr Mary Walsh (executive committee) and Dr Paul Cotter (Geriatrician) and supported by an educational grant from BMS. Important issues such as ESC AF guidelines, secondary prevention services and strategies and NOAC use in older patients will be covered.

On the 22nd of June, the IGS in collaboration with NUIG will host another of our series on marginalised populations: “Championing older LGBT people in Ireland: an invisible population”. This will be hosted by James O’Hagan (Advocate) and Dr. Isweri Pillay (Geriatrician) and take us on a journey with personal accounts and perspectives coupled with novel social inclusion initiatives.

There have been a number of excellent webinars for members since the new year which are available on the website.

Another new enterprise for the society was the introduction of a public lecture series. We have had two to date, both related to Covid19 ‘Getting Ireland Vaccine Ready’ and “Re-opening Ireland after Covid”. There is clearly an appetite for these public events, for example, over 18,000 people logged on to the first webinar.

Our next public lecture will be on 24th June when we will be discussing a topic of great national import: “ Ageing in Place- the Danish experience”. When it comes to examining how different countries and cultures address ageing, we need look no further than Denmark. Danes employ an ‘ageing in place’ policy whereby, over 30 years ago, they started to close down nursing homes and to redeploy funds and human resources to enable people stay in their own homes with support for health needs as necessary. Numbers of nursing home residents are therefore less than one tenth of that in Ireland although the population differences are 5.3 versus 4.4 million respectively. For the small numbers of people who are in nursing homes, the care is in the main, although not exclusively, delivered in houses with 4 or 5 “apartments” and a central nursing pod. Couples can be together and if one dies, their partner can remain in the nursing home apartment- it is ‘home’.

Of 128  countries analysed in the Social Progress Index, Denmark has most consistently topped Europe’s happiness rankings for the past 40 years. Danish society makes it easy to live an interesting, fulfilled life, where age is respected. Danes spend more money per capita than almost any other nation on children and on older people. Young people get an excellent education and health care. Equipped with a strong liberal arts education, Danes make productive employees. Adults spend little time worrying about retirement and focus more on pursuing the jobs they love and can enjoy their final years with the knowledge that the necessities will be covered. It’s a virtuous circle.

Professor Rudi Westendorp from the University of Copenhagen will share with us his experience of the ‘Ageing in Place’ model and he will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss the social, health and economic implications of the Danish model for Ireland.

There has been much activity on vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency and its implications for immune responsiveness, and in particular, for Covid infection and severity of response. Although deficiency is evident across the life span it is particularly pertinent to older adults. The society has therefore commissioned a position paper lead by Professor Bernard Walsh and Professor John Faul together with a panel of expert task force members to address the issue of vitamin D and immune responsiveness in older adults. The position paper will be shared with members in the forthcoming weeks and launched in early autumn.

The BGS Spring meeting was jointly hosted with the IGS on 29 and 30 April. This was hugely successful virtual meeting, coordinated by our colleagues in Northern Ireland – Professor Bernadette McGuinness and Dr Mark Roberts -together with the BGS executive committee lead by their president Dr Jennifer Burns, Glascow Royal Informary. The meeting covered diverse topics such as deconditioning and rehabilitation, emergency care, perioperative care, integrated care, telly-healthcare, mental health and health and social care policy. Shane O’Hanlon and Paul Finucane’s forthcoming book of poetry ‘Emergence 2’ was promoted and it appears that this will be a joint initiative by geriatricians in these islands. We are all looking forward to this next edition.

I would encourage all to read the forthcoming e zine edited by Dr Derek Hayden and his editing team, Liz Moloney, Rose Galvin & Elaine O'Connor. It is no small feat to keep this going. The team are very committed and worthy of the growing interest in their production- enjoy the fruits of their hard work!


Rose Anne Kenny, President of the Irish Gerontological Society

11th June, 2021