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Resilience: thoughts on the value of the concept for critical gerontology

  • KIRSTY WILD (a1), JANINE L. WILES (a1) and RUTH E. S. ALLEN (a1)

This article examines the utility of the concept of resilience to the field of critical gerontology. Resilience is an increasingly popular concept within the social sciences. We explore some key ideas about individual and social resilience from varied fields, and propose new ways to conceptualise these in relation to resilience in later life. This article examines the history of the concept of resilience; explores some of the diverse ways that gerontologists are attempting to apply it to later life; and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of using resilience as a conceptual framework within critical ageing research. We also suggest ways of conceptualising resilience and ageing, highlighting the different scales of resilience that impact on the ability of older people to negotiate adversity, and some key areas of resilience relevant to later life. The example of mobility resilience is used to illustrate how different scales of resilience operate within an area of resilience central to the ageing experience. Finally, some key principles for the use of resilience within critical gerontology are outlined, providing guidance on how to maximise the potential of the concept whilst avoiding some of the limitations associated with its historical usage.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Janine L. Wiles, Social and Community Health, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. E-mail:
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