Resilience in older adults can be defined as the ability to ‘bounce back’ and recover physical and/or psychological health in the face of adversity. [1,2] Health professionals can reflect on their interactions and services to enhance the social support of older adults to build and maintain resilience in older adults.
This page addresses the definition of resilience in a palliative care context and practice suggestions for strengthening resilience in older adults.
In ageing, resilience is important for maintaining function, subjective wellbeing, sense of adjustment, motivation for activity, and life engagement.  There are many conceptualisations of resilience in the literature, many of which have been derived from studies of children and adults, and up until the last few years, very few addressing older adults. The concept of resilience had originally been referred to in literature as a personality trait, however increasingly it has been recognised as a dynamic process  influenced by life experiences and challenges.  In designing interventions for older people that support their resilience it is important to be sensitive to this concept.
Psychological resilience generally refers to how people ‘bounce back’ from adversity, whereas individual resilience can be categorised into health, psychological, emotional, dispositional and psychological elements.  Resilience is thought to be dynamic and for each individual based on their life experiences and personal characteristics, and how much these experiences develop resilience in the individual. However the literature also recognises that environmental determinants such as access to resources or care, or actions of health professionals may also impact on a person’s ability to be resilient. 
Health professionals often have significant interaction with older adults in times of adversity, especially in a palliative care context, and are in a position to influence a person’s resilience. Enhancing social support systems and focussing upon feelings of self-worth and identity can assist in developing improved coping strategies for the individual and therefore and increase their sense of resilience. 
Overall the quality of the evidence is low, with poor reporting on methodology and quality of the studies being reviewed. In addition, the published research is not specific to a palliative and aged care context and suggests significant opportunity for future research.
Page created 15 June 2017