Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Saklofske, Donald H


The study of resilience, or positive adaptation in the face of adversity, is important across the lifespan, but may be particularly relevant for older adults who tend to experience an increasing number of challenges. Traditionally, resilience assessment has largely focused on child and young-to-middle aged adult populations, and as such, the literature is lacking a validated resilience measure developed specifically for older adults. This dissertation aimed to improve the measurement of resilience in older populations by developing and validating a new resilience measure that is relevant and appropriate for older adults. In Study 1, a qualitative metasynthesis was conducted to develop a theoretical model of resilience in older adulthood that is grounded in numerous qualitative studies examining resilience from older adults’ perspectives. Using this new theoretical model, Studies 2a, 2b and 2c employed exploratory factor analyses, confirmatory factor analyses, and analysis of gender invariance to develop and provide initial validation for the Resilience Scale for Older Adults (RSOA). The RSOA consists of four factors that measure resilience protective factors in the following domains: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Spiritual, and Experiential. Lastly, Study 3 evaluated the practical applicability of the RSOA by using this new measure to explore the relationship between perceived stress, adverse life events, and quality of life (QOL) in older adults. Overall, results provide promising initial validity evidence for the RSOA and findings suggest it is generally appropriate for an older adult population, although the Spiritual factor may be better suited as a supplemental, rather than core protective factor. Additionally, resilience as measured by the RSOA mediates the relationship between perceived stress and QOL, but only the Interpersonal resilience factor plays a key role in the relationship between cumulative adverse life events and QOL. The implications for resilience assessment in research and practice are discussed.

Summary for Lay Audience

Resilience, also known as “bouncing back” when faced with hardship, is associated with a number of positive outcomes across the lifespan. Much of the earlier work examining resilience has focused on the factors that contribute to resilience in children and young or middle-aged adults. However, resilience is also relevant during older adulthood because aging is associated with many unique challenges and therefore it is important we understand what contributes to resilience in older adults. In order to appropriately study resilience in older individuals, we need a questionnaire that was developed specifically for this age group because resilience can change across one’s lifetime. The purpose of this research was to develop a resilience questionnaire that is appropriate to use with older adults. The first study aimed to determine what factors contribute to resilience in older adults by compiling the findings from previous studies that have asked individuals directly how they would describe resilience. Using this information, the second study developed the new questionnaire called the Resilience Scale for Older Adults (RSOA). The RSOA is made up of four factors that contribute to resilience in older adults: factors that relate to the individual self, factors that involve social support from others, spiritual factors, and factors that come from previous experience. The RSOA was distributed to several samples of older adults to ensure the scale was working as expected. Finally, the third study found that resilience, as measured by the RSOA, plays a key role in the relationship between stress and older individuals’ quality of life. Overall, the findings of this research demonstrate that the RSOA is generally an appropriate questionnaire for measuring resilience in older adults, but that spiritual factors may play less of a key role than anticipated. This new questionnaire is useful for researchers and clinicians who work with older adults by providing a tool to more appropriately capture their experiences and may improve our assessment of resilience in older individuals.