Scotland does not have a longitudinal study of ageing, making it unusual within Western Europe. This project would form the pilot for such a survey -THe Scottish Longitudinal Survey of ageing (THSLS), to complement existing longitudinal studies of ageing, particularly those in the British Isles which are known as ELSA (England), TILDA (Eire) and NICOLA (Northern Ireland). THSLS would also be closely linked to a world-wide family of longitudinal surveys of ageing, key members of which are the HRS (US) and SHARE (mainland Europe).
The aims of THSLS are to further the understanding of aging in Scotland for academic and policy purposes;to improve health and socioeconomic outcomes for older people through influencing both policy and practice;to make Scotland a valued source in international comparisons of aging research, and;to generate methodological advances that will benefit other members of the family of longitudinal aging studies. The THSLS Steering Group are committed to working with the other longitudinal studies of ageing both within the UK and internationally to ensure harmonisation and to collaborate on developing methodology. The pilot study for THSLS will test some of the innovative aspects which we hope to embed in the full version of the Scottish longitudinal study of ageing. The findings from the THSLS pilot will fundamentally inform the design of the full THSLS study. The pilot will establish the process for using the NHS Central Register (NHSCR) as a sampling frame. It will test the potential for linking the sample to administrative health, education, income, benefits and social care data. These linkages have the potential to make the Scottish survey one of the most powerful combinations of survey and administrative data in the worldwide family of longitudinal surveys of aging. The pilot fieldwork therefore will involve constructing a sample using the NHSCR, interviewing a sample of older people (target of 400 individuals), and testing the procedures for linking with consent to their records in health, education and other data sources. We will undertake extensive sensitivity analyses comparing the NHSCR sample with existing surveys drawn from the more usual approach to sampling in the UK - the use of a sample drawn from the set of postcode addresses. The pilot will also test modules focussing on new methods of calibrating cognition and social networking. In the full study, these will be supplemented by modules drawn from the existing ELSA and TILDA studies to maximise comparability with these cognate studies.
The Scottish Longitudinal Study of Ageing will gather unique information on the changing social, economic, biological, medical, psychological, and lifestyle aspects of the lives of Scotland's older population. These data will be analysed and compared with similar studies in other parts of the world, including the US. The results will help shape policies aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of older people in Scotland and elsewhere. The pilot will also generate advances in methodology of benefit to other studies of ageing internationally.