Resilience, physical performance measures, and self-perceived physical and mental health in older Catholic nuns

Margaret Wells, Dale Avers, Gary Brooks
Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy 2012, 35 (3): 126-31

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The importance of physical performance measures and their influence on predicting future disability has been suggested; however, the association between resilience and physical performance measures in older women needs further study. The purpose of this research study was to investigate the resilience level in a convenience sample of older women who happened to be Roman Catholic nuns. The relationships of resilience with specific physical performance measures, self-perceived physical and mental health status, and depressive symptoms were also explored.

METHODS: Descriptive correlational cross-sectional design was used. Data from 54 volunteer Roman Catholic nuns, aged 55-94 were collected beginning with self report questionnaires followed by physical performance tests. Self-report measures included the Resilience Scale, Short-Form revised (SF-12v2) Health Survey, and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). The 12-point Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) and fast gait speed were the physical performance tests measured.

RESULTS: This sample of nuns had moderate levels of resilience. Those with fewer depressive symptoms and better health had higher resilience levels. Fast gait speed was positively associated with resilience.

DISCUSSION: The positive relationship between resilience and gait speed is an important finding of this study because it reinforces the connection between physical and emotional health. Future studies should examine if resilience and gait speed can serve as predictors of disability in a broader sample of older adults or if resilience can be targeted as a means of improving physical performance.

CONCLUSION: Maintaining functional ability and recovering when physical injury is experienced is of great importance in older adults. It is reasonable for physical therapists to consider both resilience and physical performance measures when attempting to identify older women at risk for poor outcomes. Resilience may play a role in helping older adults recover from a physical injury.

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