Advancing the Concept of Resilience for Older Adults who are Experiencing Homelessness

Sarah L. Canham (Lead / Corresponding author), Mei Lan Fang, Mineko Wada

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Current conceptualizations of resilience are ambiguous with neither consensus on the definition nor agreement on how resilience is measured and experienced across populations and sub-groups. Moreover, guidance on how to further enhance understandings of resilience and expand resilience research and policy applied to vulnerable groups of aging persons is in its infancy. For example, existing definitions of resilience have overlooked the lived experiences of homeless older adults – individuals who have much to offer in terms of progressing notions on how some people ‘stand up’ to adversity and ‘bounce back’ to a state of physical and psychological homeostasis across the life course. To address this gap in the empirical literature, we use data from a community-engaged research project, which examined the health supports needed for individuals experiencing homelessness upon hospital discharge, to develop a conceptual model of resilience pertinent to homeless older adults. We offer a brief overview of existing conceptualizations of resilience, followed by a description of late-life resilience that focuses on cumulative adaptive capability across different temporal locations. Subsequently, we provide a comparison of resilience among homeless individuals generally and homeless older adults, in order to identify unique characteristics of resilience. Finally, based on narratives of significant adversity experienced by homeless older adults while accessing (or attempting to access) healthcare in Vancouver, Canada, we offer a critical analysis of ‘resilience in ecological context’ operationalized by successive levels of human development across micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-systems. A conceptual model is developed based on reported adversities and challenges articulated in a sample of homeless individuals, which can be used to shape research, policy, and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResilience and Aging
Subtitle of host publicationEmerging Science and Future Possibilities
EditorsAndrew Wister, Theodore Cosco
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030570897
ISBN (Print)9783030570880
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Publication series

NameRisk, Systems and Decisions
ISSN (Print)2626-6717


  • Resilience
  • Aging
  • Homelessness
  • Conceptual model
  • Relocation
  • Ecological


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