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ICYMI Webinar Recap: Fostering Resilience in Older Adults

Posted by on April 10th, 2020

Over the next several weeks, we will be recapping some of the exceptional webinars that the NNLM/SCR has hosted over the course of 2019. If you would like to access an archived version of this webinar as well as all the others we have hosted this year, please click here.

In case you missed it, our August 14, 2019 SCR CONNECTions webinar was presented by Patty Bordie, MPA, Director of the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) of the Capital Area and Aging and Disability Resource Center at the Capital Area Council of Governments. There she oversees Older Americans Act services and specialized information and system navigation services for streamlined access to long-term care. Ms. Bordie has spent her career in the aging network, serving older adults and their caregivers in local, regional and state-level programs. Her tenure includes program and policy development in evidence-based prevention and wellness interventions, caregiver support programs and service delivery models which promote successful aging in place.

Patty starts her discussion by sharing the mission and purpose of her organization. Area Agency on Aging (AAA) of the Capital Area serves the needs of older adults (aged 60 and up) in the ten-county Capital area of Texas. AAA offers a grassroots level service for older individuals and their caregivers. This national organization, headquartered in Boston, provides services to and “advocate(s) for the health, safety, and well-being” of older adults, offering bountiful resources such as benefits counseling, in-home services, caregiver support, health workshops, and access to nursing home advocates. AAA also helps to fund other vital resources and services (such as Meals on Wheels) for aging Americans. 

This particular webinar is focused not on community resilience in the face of disasters or crisis, but rather individual resiliency in personal situations. Patty says that psychological (along with social) determinants of health play a part in how humans deal with trauma, disasters, or difficult situations. Some things are within our control and some things are not, and resilient people have a healthy and balanced locus of control that allows them to understand which life circumstances they can control and which they can not. People who experience higher overall satisfaction with their circumstances are more likely to use preventive care, while people who experience depression and/or lower life satisfaction are likely to use more expensive healthcare solutions. Perceptions of personal health and well-being directly impact personal success.

Photo by Kenny Luo via Unsplash

So, what is resilience and how can older adults learn it? Per the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress or “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. The good news is that this trait isn’t stable; it is adaptable, learnable, and teachable.

The first step in fostering this characteristic in older adults is to assess their resilience on a base level; this can be achieved through formal surveys or via a conversational approach. Both of these assessment methods are focused on the personal perspective of the subject; point of view is incredibly important as resilience is born from subjective experiences. These assessment methods also involve people in the resiliency-building process. Patty borrows a mantra from the disabled community, essentially saying that in order for a program or process to succeed and be truly about someone, it cannot be developed without their input. “It’s not about us without us.” 

Many factors affect one’s perception of their own resiliency, including physical, interpersonal, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and spiritual fitness. Patty discusses the value and importance of social connection for older adults. Isolation can be more detrimental to physical health than many physical conditions, so people – especially those in the aging community – need strong social support to help them maintain health and build resilience. AAA offers many services to aid in this connection, but community members and neighbors can also reach out to help build a social support structure. Providing transportation and mobility equipment and revising city infrastructure to make living areas safer and more accessible to older adults is vital. The ability of this community to interact with the world on a regular basis leads to better health outcomes and allows them to pay it forward; older adults who receive social support are more likely to give it to their peers and loved ones.

Patty rounded out this webinar by sharing a list of AAA partners and programs working to improve resiliency in the aging community:

It’s up to all of us to help each other build individual resiliency. Although this webinar is focused on older adults, people of all ages can take strategies from this presentation and apply them to their own lives. Visit www.eldercare.acl.gov to find your area AAA organization.

This webinar is available to watch on YouTube, and Patty’s contact information is listed below.

Patty Bordie, MPA
(512) 916-6053

Please look out for blog posts in the coming weeks which will recap more NNLM/SCR webinars.

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Image of the author ABOUT E. Bailey Sterling
E. Bailey Sterling is a Digital Communications Specialist with the NNLM SCR and presently a graduate student pursuing an MS in Information Science specializing in Health Informatics from the University of North Texas (GMG!). She's also a Graduate Student Council Senator, Teaching Assistant, analog gamer, writer, and lifelong learner living in DFW. If you have anything you'd like to see featured on the NNLM SCR blog or social channels, please email Bailey.Sterling@unthsc.edu. We would love to hear more about what's happening at your library!

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