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Resilience in later life: the impact of social exclusion on access to networks of support

Kirsty Bagnall (Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, Manchester UK)
Sophie Yarker (Department of Sociology, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 3 November 2022




The aim of this paper is to respond to a gap in the literature around resilience in later life for older people from minority groups of identity or experience. Specifically, it argues that we need to pay greater attention to how access to different types of social capital may leave some older people more or less able to cope with adverse events and how experiences of social exclusion can limit access to important networks of support during times of crisis.


This paper draws on research conducted to inform the resilience strategy of Greater Manchester in 2019, and specifically looked at how this strategy could better address the needs of the regions’ diverse ageing population. It used a qualitative design including focus groups with older women of Punjabi heritage living in Greater Manchester, interviews with staff from a community and voluntary organisation working with these women, and interviews with staff at an organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Greater Manchester who specifically worked with older adults.


The research found that belonging to a minority group and experiences of social exclusion gave participants in this study both resources and vulnerabilities when it came to dealing with external shocks in later life. Whilst participants in this study had access to strong networks of bonding capital based on shared identity and experience, social exclusion often meant they faced barriers to accessing network of support outside of these communities.

Research limitations/implications

Findings from this study have implications for both future research and policy. In the case of the latter there are implications for those working in resilience planning in terms of how to address the needs of diverse older populations. For researchers, this paper has implications for how we understand the impacts on inequality in later life particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The originality of this paper lies in its consideration of the impact of inequalities and social exclusion on the resilience of older people in times of crisis. It included older people from minority groups of identity and experience addressing an important gap in the literature.



The authors would like to acknowledge the time and input of the participants who shared their experiences to inform this research. The authors would also like to thank Chris Phillipson and Tine Buffel for their comments on previous drafts of this paper.

Funding statement: This work was supported by funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Leverhulme Trust Grant ref RL-2019–011.

Ethics statement: This paper is based on research conducted by a community and voluntary organisation to inform the resilience strategy of Greater Manchester in 2019. The research followed Ethical research guidelines from the British Sociological Association.


Bagnall, K. and Yarker, S. (2022), "Resilience in later life: the impact of social exclusion on access to networks of support", Working with Older People, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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