Innovative Perspectives on Resilience and Aging

Resilience, the adaptive capacity to bounce back after a loss, adversity or disruptive change, is at the heart of our psychological well-being, particularly as we grow older. Current research holds the promise of enhanced psychological resilience as we age: the better we understand resilience and the conditions that create it in our own lives, the more likely we are to savour this later-life stage with inspiration, courage and zest.

Examining both current research and wisdom traditions, as well as engaging in online discussion and self-reflective explorations, we will consider resilience from multiple perspectives. We’ll aim not only to identify elements in our own lives that may enhance resilience, but also to better appreciate our innate human capacity for generating resilience at any age.

A $60 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: Online courses begin on the first date listed and end six days after the last date listed. In the week following each date listed, you can study that week’s material, leave and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. You can do this at any time that suits you during the week; you do not have to be online at specific times.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Identify the essential features of resilience relevant to the latter life stage development
  • Evaluate areas of resilience within the context of your own life as well as those that may require further attention with respect to cultivating resiliency
  • Describe the relationship between grief and resilience
  • Discuss the unique nature of wisdom as an expression of resilience

Learning methods

Each module will begin with a presentation and a short reading. You are encouraged to engage in a self-reflective exercise (entirely optional and entirely private) followed by posting responses to discussion questions. References for future resources are provided.

While participation is encouraged and valued, please know that you are welcome to engage to the degree that is comfortable and congruent with your learning style: each element of the course is entirely optional.

For Liberal Arts Certificate for 55+ students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Introduction to resilience: Springing forward (not back!) from adversity

What, exactly, is resilience? How do some of the pervasive cultural myths of aging impede our capacity for resilience? How does current research refute some of these myths? We'll explore models of resilience, resilient attitudes and adaptation.

Week 2: Resilience as a function of identity: Becoming the whole of who we really are

How do we negotiate the transition beyond mid-life toward greater authenticity? Models of identity development, particularly those of Erikson and Jung, offer us insights into this critical and rich question.

Week 3: Resilience as a function of meaning: Why meaning matters

How have the meanings that shaped our lives transformed over time? What is the relationship between our beliefs and values and what we perceive as meaningful to us now? How does meaning, particularly Frankl’s conception of meaning, contribute to resilience?

Week 4: Resilience as a function of belonging: The power of (inter)connection

What is the role of endorphins and other well-being hormones in connection? And conversely, what is the relationship between loneliness and the stress response? What unique challenges do we face as we age in a wired world? Connection and belonging as sources of resilience.

Week 5: Grief as adaptation

How does grief create the conditions for resilience? How does the grief cycle as conceptualized by Therese Rando mirror the resiliency cycle? What is the current research on aging and grief? We'll explore comparative models of grief, the relationship between grief and resilience, and complicated grief.

Week 6: Wisdom as the heart of resiliency

What, exactly, is wisdom? How do wisdom and its corollaries, insight, contentment and acceptance, contribute to resilience? What does the current research on tell us about wisdom and its functions, particularly in aging? Can we cultivate wisdom? If so, how?

Books, materials and resources

You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Hardware and software requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online course management system, Canvas. You will receive course details and Canvas access instructions on the first day of the course. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.

To get the most out of the online course, you should be comfortable using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media. This course is designed to allow you time and opportunity to interact with other students online, and to complete exercises and activities away from the computer.

Academic integrity and student conduct

You are expected to comply with Simon Fraser University’s Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Policies. Please click here for more details. Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty, civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect, individual safety, and freedom from harassment and discrimination.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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