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Supporting resilience in older people: implications for nursing practice

02 June 2022
11 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 6


Resilience refers to an individual's ability to adapt and bounce back following adversity. As a concept it may help to explain how some people cope with stressors using internal and social support, leading to personal growth. The concept of resilience is frequently mentioned in the literature but often poorly understood. Older people are vulnerable to multiple adversities such as loss and chronic illness and therefore it is important to introduce strategies that promote resilience. The aim of this article is to explore the concept of resilience in older people by using the social ecological model to examine factors that influence resilience within this context. It further discusses the role of the nurse and uses a case study to highlight how nurses can facilitate the use of individual, contextual and sociocultural resources to foster resilience with older people in practice.

Advancements in healthcare provision mean that older people will live longer, but may also experience the effects of long-term physical illness or mental distress, which have the potential to negatively impact their quality of life and wellbeing. Older people make up a large proportion of health care consumers across the continuum of care and this is set to increase in line with demographic changes worldwide (World Health Organization, (WHO) 2020). Traditional healthcare practices have focused on older people living well with chronic conditions through symptom control, stoping or slowing condition progression, health education and self-management. However, the general focus has been on single-condition approaches, despite the increased likelihood of multi-morbidity in later life, with estimations of the number of people affected ranging from 55% to 98% (Marengoni et al, 2011). Less emphasis is placed on helping older people adapt to the changing circumstances that they encounter in later life by harnessing their resilience and supporting personal growth when situations of adversity are encountered, thereby creating conditions where they can thrive (Pruchno et al, 2015). The aim of this article is to advance the understanding of nurses working with older people in relation to the concept of resiience, how it is conceptualised and how it can be applied in the provision of person-centred care. The article will also examine the factors that influence resilience, and by using a case study, will provide some strategies that nurses can use to support resilience in older people.

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