This chapter focuses on the role that personality plays in resilience across the lifespan. The concept of personality captures a combination of genetic, familial, social, and cultural elements, and thus is very useful in understanding differential patterns of development. In particular, this chapter highlights findings from our work with the Terman Life Cycle Study, the longest longitudinal study conducted to date, to demonstrate how core aspects of the individual may impact how he or she travels life's pathways and reacts to life's challenges. Our findings suggest that temperamental predispositions, internal stress, coping responses, social relationships, and health behaviors may all be relevant to whether an individual will thrive and stay healthy in the face of challenge or succumb to illness and disease. By identifying the mechanisms involved, we can better understand risk and intervene more effectively, with the goal of increasing resilience as people age.
It is easy to observe striking individual differences in healthy aging. Consider these two cases drawn from our lifespan studies of longevity. Elmer was constantly on the go – involved in everything and friends with everyone. In the morning he raised funds for a benefit concert to support the children's hospital; in the afternoon he bowled with his buddies; in the evening he cared for his wife and enjoyed the company of his children and grandchildren.
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