from the AgeLab

Aging, Resilience & Longevity

As youngest boomers turn 50, new study uncovers how people stay resilient through midlife transitions

June 20, 2014- HARTFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The most resilient adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s are more likely to cope with stress by being physically active and having strong social connections, compared with those less resilient. The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab Resilience in Midlife study looked at life transitions that people in their 40s, 50s and 60s experience and how they remain resilient.

“Resilience is particularly essential in midlife, when we may be adapting to major life changes,” said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. “We found the most resilient adults have a strong sense of self-efficacy or the belief that they are able to manage through difficult transitions.”

Making adjustments

The study explored the concept of resilience, the capacity to positively adjust to difficult life experiences. It was comprised of focus groups, and a survey of adults ages 40-69, which included the Resilience in Midlife (RIM) scale1.

Participating in entertainment activities and hobbies is the most common way that all adults in the study cope with stress. However, the most resilient adults are more likely to participate in physical activity than less resilient adults (70 percent versus 42 percent).

Social connections and support are also common among the most resilient people. Sixty percent of the most resilient adults talk to or spend time with friends as a way to cope with stress, compared with 35 percent of the less resilient individuals.

Ninety-four percent of the most resilient people reported that they are very or somewhat happy, compared with only 32 percent of the less resilient people in the survey. Thirty-four percent of the most resilient people reported that they are not stressed at all, compared with six percent of the less resilient people in the survey.

“This is consistent with other research on aging and well-being,” said Joseph F. Coughlin, Ph.D., director of the MIT AgeLab. “The results point to the on-going need to re-evaluate life stages – to see midlife and aging adults as resilient in the face of life, not worn-out or worn down by it.”

The most common types of stress that people in midlife are currently experiencing are related to finances and expenses (53 percent), health of yourself or others (40 percent), and changes related to aging (34 percent).

Overall, people in their 60s reported higher levels of resilience, compared with people in their 40s and 50s2.

“Building resilience over a lifetime is important,” said Olshevski. “Carving out time to take care of yourself by being physically active and socially connected in the midst of life transitions is an important part of building resilience over a lifetime.”

To learn more about your own resilience, take a resilience quiz at





Resilience in Midlife Research Methodology
Twelve focus groups (6 in Boston, 6 in Dallas) were conducted by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford with adults 40-69. Each group had approximately 10 participants, with a total of 119 participants. The groups were segmented by age and gender. All participants were living in the community and currently driving when the focus groups were conducted in January 2014. Lieberman Research conducted an online survey of 1,519 adults age 40-69, stratified by age (40-49, 50-59, 60-69,) across the U.S. for The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab. The median survey length was 15 minutes. The survey fielded between March 28 and April 7, 2014.

“Carving out time to take care of yourself by being physically active and socially connected in the midst of life transitions is an important part of building resilience over a lifetime.”

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About The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence
The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence creates innovative business solutions for the mature market. Staffed by gerontologists, the center is uniquely positioned to apply knowledge of aging to develop one-of-a-kind products and services for The Hartford’s customers, and specialized training for The Hartford’s employees. The center conducts original research in partnership with academic institutions and produces public education programs on safety, mobility and independence. The Hartford has had this in-house expertise since 1984, guiding The Hartford to unparalleled success in understanding and serving the mature market.

About MIT AgeLab
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab is a global research program based within MIT’s Engineering Systems Division and Center for Transportation & Logistics. The AgeLab conducts research on technology, behavior and innovation to improve the quality of life of older adults and those who care for them. More about AgeLab’s research in transportation, health and wellness, and longevity planning is available at

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1 Included in the survey was the 25-question Resilience in Midlife scale, developed by Linda Ryan and Marie L. Caltabiano, as reported in the article, “Development of a New Resilience Scale: The Resilience in Midlife Scale (RIM Scale),” Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 11, November 2009. Results from the scale were categorized into three levels based on identification of the top 20 percent highest scores and the lowest 20 percent scores.

2 On the RIM Scale, adults in their 60s scored on average a 69 out of 100, whereas adults in their 50s scored on average 66 and adults in their 40s scored on average a 64. The difference in these scores was found to be a statistically significant difference at the 95 percent confidence level.