Why do some elders thrive in later years, while others struggle? Few would argue that getting older is stressful. Later life is often marked by significant losses, such as personal relationships, finances, health, independence, and cognitive and functional abilities (Lavretsky, 2014). The phenomenon of individuals coping and continuing to thrive in the face of multifaceted losses illustrates the concept of resilience.
Resilience allows for successful aging. However, the concept of successful aging has come under scrutiny due to its limiting definition which focuses on the absence of disease and disability (Rowe & Kahn, 2015). Can successful aging exist in the face of adversity and challenge? I believe it can.
Resilience allows individuals to respond to adversity with strength. Individuals experience aging through the various aspects of biology, psychology, sociology, and cognition. Within each of these domains, the process of resilience can manifest. As a gerontologist, I strive to foster resilience in older individuals through the development of effective social programs and services aimed at helping those who care for older adults. We can learn resilience at an early age which can help us throughout our lives, well into our older adults years.
Lavretsky, H. (2014). Resilience and aging: Research and practice. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.
Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (2015). Successful aging 2.0: conceptual expansions for the 21st century. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70(4): 593-596.