Although ageing research increasingly incorporates resilience, a common notion on what resilience means is lacking. We aimed to give a comprehensive overview of the conceptual literature on resilience in older persons, identifying areas of consensus and variation/debate. A systematic search of eight databases from different disciplines led to the inclusion of 36 texts. Across the conceptual literature of resilience in older persons, three common features of descriptions of resilience were identified: a stressor, a response and a mechanism. Based on differences in their interpretation of how resilience is expressed we distinguished two perspectives. The first, classical and most widely applied perspective, describes the expression of resilience as a positive response to a high intensity stressor. The second, newer perspective, describes resilience in the context of responses relative to equilibrium, following low intensity stressors. Almost all descriptions across the two perspectives describe the resilience mechanism to be dynamic and emphasize the importance of the context in achieving resilience. This review provides clarity on the current conceptual status of resilience in older persons, an important step towards a higher level of consistency in the future use of resilience in ageing.