Alone in the Shadow of Terror: Strategies and Internal Resources of Older Adults Living Alone in a Continuous Traumatic Situation

Shirly Hadida-Naus, Gabriela Spector-Mersel*, Sharon Shiovitz-Ezra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Continuous traumatic situations (CTS) caused by prolonged exposure to terrorist threat can harm individuals’ mental and physical health. For older adults living alone in CTS, this risk joins the challenges of aging and loneliness, creating a triple vulnerability. No previous research has explored this particular vulnerability and specifically addressed the coping strategies and internal resources used by older adults to manage these stressful circumstances. The present study aimed to fill this lacuna, by exploring how older adults living alone in CTS cope with these challenges and the internal resources that help them do so. Indepth interviews with 15 persons aged 65+ years living alone in Sderot, an Israeli city exposed to a continuous terror threat, were conducted and analyzed thematically. Participants described various coping strategies. Some are deployed at the psychological level: positive thinking, deliberate disengagement, perception of being alone as an advantage, and social comparison; others have behavioral implications: acknowledging reality and dealing with it and “turning it into an engine.” Participants also identified four internal resources that helped them cope: functional independence, faith, character traits, and previous experience with stressful life events. Participants coped with the difficulties of living alone in CTS actively and creatively, relying on various psychological and functional resources. The findings support theories that emphasize older adults’ resilience and ability to cope with stress and trauma, suggesting ways to strengthen the resilience of older adults facing CTS, particularly those living alone.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice


  • continuous traumatic situations
  • coping strategies
  • internal resources
  • living alone
  • ongoing terrorist threat


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