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08 Aug 2022

The enduring power of resilience


Life is full of major stressful events. Our ability to be resilient in the face of challenges can make even the most daunting situations manageable.

An ageing family member who needs caregiving. The death of a loved one. A financial setback. A major health issue. Possibly a combination of these factors. Each year comes with new challenges that creates resilience that in turn helps people to continue in, and with, life. Conceivably the pressures and outcomes are so intense that frailty can set in making people vulnerable.

Globally people are exploring the link between vulnerability and resilience in helping older people overcome the effects of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even major sources of stress. Living longer, by nature, will increase the likelihood and increased incidence of events that will require the ‘struggle muscle’ of resilience to kick in.

At the same time, the United Nations, as part of a global strategy for sustainability, cites resilience as one of the essential ‘cornerstones’ of supporting, and harnessing, the power of an increasingly ageing population.

Prompting the questions:

  • What exactly is resilience?
  • Why is it part of an international agenda on sustainability and ageing?
  • What creates, or builds on, resilience?
  • What factors form an integral part of the resilience creation process? How does resilience help to counter frailty, and vulnerability, among an ageing population?

Resilience has focused on situations where it is an essential element to help people contend with change. Usually it involves situations that have the potential to be unpleasant or undesirable.

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Published: July 2022

To be reviewed: July 2025


Birthplace of belonging

In an aged care context, two concepts (vulnerability and resilience) are part of the picture.

Vulnerability is emotional risk, exposure, and uncertainty. In some situations, it can be a weakness but also has the potential to link to creativity, belonging and joy.

The latter part of this definition is in keeping with the view espoused by thought leader Dr Brené Brown who sees vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Where vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.”

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. Often described as "bouncing back" from difficult experiences.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. These can be mental, physical as well as spiritual. The longer we live, the more likely we are to experience big, and stressful, life events. These can foster vulnerability and frailty.