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Resilience Living While Aging in Bermuda

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The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress,” or “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

So here’s the good news: research suggests that being resilient is a process and not necessarily a personality trait. This means that no matter your social environment, personal experiences, socioeconomic status or background, you have the capacity to build resilience – an adaptive process that can benefit you for life.

“Successful” aging would typically be defined as high physical and mental functioning alongside freedom from chronic disease and disability. One might add financial freedom and spiritual wellbeing to that list.

Here in the West, age has been viewed negatively as a time of declining function, mental and physical limitations, frailty, and disability. However, many older adults actually experience high wellbeing and quality of life, low stress, recovery from adversities, and consider themselves to be aging successfully despite the onset of chronic conditions. In some studies, adults age 85 and older appear to have the same or greater capacity for resilience as those who are younger, suggesting that resilience may also support longevity.

Several common characteristics of resilience among older adults have been identified, including mental, social, and physical components, indicating that resilience is multi-dimensional. High resilience later in life has been associated with optimal outcomes, such as reduced depression and mortality risk, as well as better self-perceptions of aging successfully, increased quality of life, and improved lifestyle behaviours.

Here in Bermuda, we’ve had obvious risk with the compounded problems of the last three years that has affected people’s mental and physical health, financial stability, and overall unease about the future. Since resilience is a process, how do we best prepare ourselves to have security in all areas of life as we age?

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence® and the MIT AgeLab conducted a study that looked at transitions adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s experience and how they remain resilient. The study was comprised of focus groups, and a survey of adults ages 40-69, which included the Resilience in Midlife (RIM) scale. The study found that:

The most resilient adults have a strong sense of self-efficacy or the belief that they are able to manage through difficult transitions.

Participating in entertainment activities and hobbies is the most common way that all adults in the study cope with stress. However, the most resilient adults are more likely to participate in physical activity than less resilient adults (70% versus 42%).

Social connections and support are also common among the most resilient people. Sixty percent of the most resilient adults talk to or spend time with friends, compared with 35% of the less resilient individuals.

94% of the most resilient people reported that they are very or somewhat happy, compared with only 32% of the less resilient people in the survey.

34% of the most resilient people reported that they are not stressed at all, compared with 6% of the less resilient people in the survey.

The most common types of stress that people in midlife are currently experiencing are related to finances and expenses (53%), health of yourself or others (40%), and changes related to aging (34%).

Adults in their 60s reported higher levels of resilience, compared with people in their 40s and 50s.

So, how can we start living well before we are actually seniors? Building resilience over a lifetime is important. Carving out time to take care of yourself by being physically active and socially connected in the midst of life transitions is an important part of developing resilience. Be honest with yourself about where you are right now in your life. Retool to remain current and competent.

Three ways to boost your resilience:

  1. Physical: Be active. Whether it’s taking a walk, exercising, doing yoga or playing sports, being active is associated with resilience.
  2. Social: Are there friends and family you are close to and have important conversations with? Keep those connections strong. Whether it’s talking on the phone, meeting for a meal, or just hanging-out, talk to the people in your network you rely on and who support you.
  3. Personal: Develop the inner qualities that build resilience. Resilience is comprised of five key elements: Family and social networks, Perseverance, Coping, Locus of control (belief in your ability to control the situation), and Self-efficacy (a belief that you are able to manage through difficult situations).

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