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‘Keeping going’: chronic joint pain in older people who describe their health as good



It is common for people with chronic conditions to report their health as good, although models of healthy ageing do not account for this. The concept of successful ageing focuses on overcoming problems, in contrast to the concept of resilience, which can acknowledge vulnerability. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the main cause of joint pain in older people, but research in this area has tended to focus on OA as an illness. Consequently, our research aimed to explore OA from the perspective of wellness. We undertook a longitudinal qualitative study to explore ‘wellness and resilience’ in a group of older people who reported chronic joint pain and considered themselves healthy. We interviewed 27 people and followed them up with monthly diary sheets, responding to reports of changes using their chosen contact method. This article focuses on how resilience relates to how people consider themselves to be well. Participants' experience of the adversity of their pain varied, and was influenced by context and meaning. Participants described ‘keeping going’ in body, mind and everyday life. Flexibility and pragmatism were key aspects of keeping going. The findings support a broader version of resilience that incorporates vulnerabilities. In the context of health care we suggest that treating the frail body should not come at the expense of undermining an older person's sense of a resilient self.

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The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence . The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Jane C. Richardson, Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre and Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG, UK E-mail:


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‘Keeping going’: chronic joint pain in older people who describe their health as good



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