Presidential Lecture 2015_Desmond O’Neill, Wednesday 30th September 2015

30/09/2015 in Corrigan & Graves Halls, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 6, Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Professor Desmond O’Neill, MA MD FRCPI AGSF FRCP(Glasg) FRCP FRCPEdin FGSA

Consultant Physician in Geriatric Medicine and Professor in Medical Gerontology, Tallaght Hospital and Trinity College Dublin

Unlocking the demographic dividend through the sciences of ageing


When the conquistadors first encountered platinum in the Americas they were at a loss what to make of it and ended up throwing it away. A contemporary parallel is the widespread failure to recognize the treasure of our increased longevity, all too often reduced to a miserable and one-dimensional trope of decline and burden. For doctors, this is doubly challenging since so much of adult health-care concerns the care of older people, with their inevitable tally of multi morbidity and frailty. Seeing beyond these vicissitudes to the richness beyond is a central, if subtle and counter-cultural, element of geriatric medicine and gerontology.

It is also of vital importance to individuals and the system. Negativity towards ageing is endemic and tolerated, even among older people. Ironically, older people who harbor ageist views are more likely to die during hospital admissions, and ageism subverts the political and professional imperative to implement the effective approaches to age-related care that we have acquired through research in gerontology and geriatric medicine.

This Inaugural Presidential Lecture will illuminate the elements of the longevity dividend, explore how we can replace a narrative of negativity with one which affirms the richness, complexity and worth of ageing, and provide an overview of the exciting developments in ageing research in Ireland which can nurture and sustain the longevity dividend.

A key task for the future is to create lasting linkages between research into ageing and practice, and to infuse all adult specialisms represented in the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland with knowledge, skills and attitudes tailored to the complex care of older people. If Robert Graves suggested that his epitaph could be ‘He fed fevers’, then his modern equivalent might wish for ‘He welcomed ageing’.

Light refreshments follows at 9:00pm