The COVID-19 pandemic is a highly stressful situation with potential long-term consequences on physical and psychological well-being. Available data shows a bigger threat to older adults. For this reason and the fact that traditionally aging has been linked to negative characteristics, most COVID-19 research has focused on older adults´ negative consequences. However, not the whole group of older adults has been affected negatively. One of the most remarkable aging characteristics is its heterogeneity. For this reason, age is not enough criterion for predicting the direct impact of the virus. What is more, difficult situations older adults have faced along their lives may have strengthened them because of developing protective psychological resources, like resilience.
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress (APA, 2014). This consideration of resilience as a dynamic process has been generally accepted. Despite the increasing recognition of resilience like a key construct across the adult life span, the study of this phenomenon in older adults has flourished rather recently (Allen et al., 2018). Research results suggest that older adults have the capacity for high resilience despite age-related changes (role changes, illnesses, loneliness, and grief) (MacLeod et al., 2016).
Resilience has been considered as a multidimensional construct compounded by mental, social and physical factors and it is positively linked with successful aging and longevity (MacLeod et al., 2016). Regarding physical characteristics, several studies have found higher resilience in women stressing the idea that women have to face with more difficult situations along their lives which may strengthen and empower them (Hahn et al., 2011). In contrast, a very recent study found worse resilience in women facing COVID-19 (Plomecka et al., 2020). Other studies have suggested the association among resilience and better health, lower rate mortality and higher longevity even in the oldest old (Nygren et al., 2005; Zeng & Shen, 2010).
Within mental characteristics, it was found a significant positive relationship among resilience and optimal outcomes, such as psychological well-being, gratitude or acceptance. When facing life challenges, many people can find a sense of purpose and meaning and even to develop one’s potential (Tomás et al., 2012). Furthermore, some research found a relationship between suffering and positive meaning and gratitude (Sacco et al., 2014). Gratitude is firmly associated with well-being, including personal growth, life purpose and self-acceptance (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). Adaptative coping strategies, like acceptance, can also help older adults to adapt gradually to daily challenges and are critical to recovering from stressful events. On the contrary, these variables show a negative relationship with emotional distress (depression and anxiety) (Laird et al., 2019). Finally, contextual variables like warmth, support and family cohesion contribute to resilience (MacLeod et al., 2016).
This study aimed to assess physical, psychological and social factors related to resilience from a multidimensional approach. To our knowledge, the studies about aging and COVID-19 are mainly focused on older adults´ negative consequences and risk factors, and none have considered a strengths-based approach yet.