Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Winning Strategies for Successful Aging

Winning Strategies for Successful Aging

Eric Pfeiffer
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Winning Strategies for Successful Aging
    Book Description:

    For anyone who is approaching a 65th birthday with trepidation, this valuable book offers heartening advice on navigating the later years of life. Dr. Eric Pfeiffer, who for thirty years has cared for-and learned from-elderly people, addresses with compassion and deep understanding the multitude of issues that arise for aging individuals and their families. He writes authoritatively but in a conversational tone. His advice is easy to read, easy to follow, and full of wisdom.

    In short, practical chapters, Dr. Pfeiffer advises on choosing an ideal place to live, finding a range of satisfying activities, and maintaining an active social life. He also explains how best to maintain one's health, mental health, wealth, and independence. Other chapters explore the importance of a spiritual life and the value of maintaining an active sexual life. In addition, the author speaks to the value of charitable giving and describes how it is possible to prepare for a good good-bye to life. Filled with illustrative anecdotes and enhanced with a lovely selection of poems, this reassuring book demonstrates how it is possible to direct and control the aging experience. For every person approaching retirement years, and for their friends and families, the book is an excellent resource and a practical guide.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18541-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    George E. Vaillant

    Eric Pfeiffer has written a useful, Dr. Spock–like handbook for growing old, a book that can be kept in easy reach and referred to whenever you feel you need useful facts or advice.

    However, he has written much more than that: he has written a very wise book. When you begin to read this book, start with the last chapters—where the “music” lives. By reading Chapters 12 through 15 first, you can learn to trust that the author has traveled the path that you are traveling with compassion and deep understanding, and that you can trust the good...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    DEAR READER: Welcome toWinning Strategies for Successful Aging.I am assuming that either you are a baby boomer, approaching the threshold of senior citizenship and trying to prepare for it, or that you have already passed age 65 and are looking to improve your ongoing aging experience. Or perhaps you are the adult child of aging parents who wants to better understand your father’s and mother’s aging experiences. Good for you, for being concerned about their success. Maybe, after you have learned all that you can from this guide, you can pass this book on to your parents for...

  5. Chapter 1 You Have a Whole Generation of Life Left to Live—Prepare Accordingly
    (pp. 1-5)

    MOST PEOPLE want to live a long life. They want to become wiser, smarter, happier, and more serene as they age. Never has this been truer than for the baby boomer generation. As a member of that generation you should know that you are on the forefront of a new way of experiencing the later years. Until recently, when people reached retirement or passed the 65-year mark, they had a relatively short span of life remaining. But no more!You can’t count on dying any time soon!Your generation can expect to live 10, 15, 20, 25, or even 30...

  6. Chapter 2 Understand What Successful Aging Is, and Then Plan to Do It
    (pp. 6-14)

    SUCCESSFUL AGING is living the lifeyouhave envisioned—with gusto, energy, and enjoyment. It means a life filled with activities that are meaningful to you; a life filled with friendships and loving relationships, as well as with challenges that you will address and manage so they don’t become unbearable, ongoing problems.

    Is such successful aging possible? Definitely. We each have seen many successfully aging individuals among family members, friends, and acquaintances. We each know individuals who are “going great guns” at 80, 85, and even at 90 years old. A number of public figures have shown what can still...

  7. Chapter 3 Choose Your Ideal Place to Live
    (pp. 15-23)

    AS I LOOK out the window at the sun-drenched greenery of my front yard in the morning, I take enormous pleasure in the rich display of light and colors. In the afternoon, when I walk down my street to the Bayshore, a linear park in my neighborhood, I relish the dappled shade that the live oaks cast over the houses and lawns as I greet my neighbors on their front porches. I watch with pleasure the ripple of the gentle breezes on the waters of the bay, and marvel at the herons and gulls. When I sit on my back...

  8. Chapter 4 Know Who You Are—and Do Something
    (pp. 24-38)

    YOU ARE the main character in this drama called “the rest of your life.” But you are now in a whole new phase of your life. You can choose who you want to be and what you want to do in the next 10, 20, perhaps even 30 years of your life. Of course, you will first and foremost want tobe yourself,the person you have always been, but with a few new wrinkles (pun intended). Now you can choose to add new dimensions to your identity. You can choose to add new activities to your list of what...

  9. Chapter 5 Make Your Relationships and Social Life a High Priority
    (pp. 39-54)

    WE HUMANS are social animals. From day one we could not survive without someone to care for us, which is usually a mother. We do better with two caretakers, often a mother and a father. Growth and learning take place only in a social setting. We need social connections throughout life.

    In this chapter we talk about many kinds of social relationships, but especially those that assume greatest significance in your later years. Early in life our social relationships with our parents matter most. Later in life the circle of social relationships enlarges, through school, work, as well as leisure...

  10. Chapter 6 Insist on Good Health—Everything Else Depends On It
    (pp. 55-94)

    GOOD HEALTH is a prerequisite for successful aging. It is necessary for everything you will want to do in retirement. Accordingly, maintaining and even improving your health status in your later years is a high priority. Good health has been described as the ultimate aphrodisiac.

    Even if you have been healthy all of your life, do not take your good health for granted. You cannot expect to stay healthy and free of all illness as you age. You may be faced with an acute or chronic illness at any time, and your responsibility will be to deal with it aggressively....

  11. Chapter 7 Stay Mentally Healthy
    (pp. 95-112)

    AT THE OPENING session of the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco, the association’s president asserted: “There is no health without mental health.” I certainly agree with that statement. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on the important topic of mental health. It covers three aspects of mental health: (1) positive, or optimal, mental health; (2) mental health problems that can arise in later life; and (3) unique features related to the treatment of mental health problems. Let us first talk about positive mental health.

    Positive, or optimal, mental health can be defined as the zest that...

  12. Chapter 8 Care for Your Brain to Keep Your Memory Sharp
    (pp. 113-137)

    WHEN I FIRST came to the University of South Florida to start a program on aging, I asked hundreds of people what they feared most about growing old. Most often they replied that they feared losing their memory, their mental capacity, and their ability to make decisions. It wasn’t heart disease or stroke or cancer that most scared them: it was fear of losing their mind, their brain power. One woman of my acquaintance expressed this sentiment particularly powerfully:

    Laura, age 67, developed an illness that her local doctors could not easily diagnose. She had abdominal pain and weight loss,...

  13. Chapter 9 Hold On to Your Money So You Don’t Outlive It
    (pp. 138-160)
    Terri Gaffney

    THIS CHAPTER deals with retirement income: how to determine if you have enough; how to preserve it; how to increase it, if necessary; and how to guard against any losses through scams or other deceptive practices. A stable stream of income is an essential element of successful aging. It makes possible everything that is needed in retirement: suitable housing, adequate medical care, entertainment, and gift-giving to family members and to charity. The topic of money is not only important, it is also very intriguing and stimulating.

    For starters, you might as well accept the fact that you are not suddenly...

  14. Chapter 10 Exercise Every Day, and Make It Fun
    (pp. 161-173)

    THIS CHAPTER discusses the unique role that exercise plays in maintaining wellness. If exercise were a pill, it would be the most prescribed medication throughout life and especially in retirement. The benefits of exercise are numerous, and they are enormous:

    Exercise will make you a better all-around person.

    Exercise will make you a happier person.

    Exercise will increase your sex appeal. (Who wouldn’t want that?)

    Exercise will retard aging. Inactivity accelerates aging.

    The goal of this chapter is not to simply advise you of the many benefits of regular, vigorous exercise but also to show you how you can implement...

  15. Chapter 11 Protect Your Independence
    (pp. 174-189)

    IN THIS CHAPTER I discuss strategies for maintaining your independence and for avoiding dependency. It’s worth fighting for your independence. Moreover, it is much easier to maintain independence than to regain it. And any episode of dependency should be regarded as strictly temporary, to be reversed as soon as possible. Dependency, especially when there is reduced mobility on the part of the patient or when the patient is bedridden, brings with it a meltdown of bone and muscle within weeks, and it can lead to other serious health problems, such as pressure ulcers and bone demineralization. These complications of even...

  16. Chapter 12 Embrace Your Inner, Spiritual Self
    (pp. 190-202)

    WHEN WE think of people’s inner lives—their dreams, fantasies, and a vivid imagination—we often think of this as being the province of the young. Thus far, relatively few authors have written about the inner lives of people in retirement. But recent research, including my own, has shown that individuals approaching retirement or in retirementcontinueto have a lively imagination and a rich inner world of dreams and fantasies.

    In this chapter I encourage you to explore and cherishyourinner life. It can actually be a source of great satisfaction and wonder to you, as it is...

  17. Chapter 13 Maintain Your Sexual Life
    (pp. 203-216)

    THIS CHAPTER addresses an often-overlooked aspect of aging: continued sexuality. My own research, and that of others, indicates that the vast majority of older people are interested in continuing their sex lives, even though the expression of sexuality may change somewhat in the later years.

    Believe me, despite the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, sexuality continues to remain a somewhat taboo subject,especially for doctors. The reason I share this somewhat shameful secret with you is that you may encounter such an attitude inyourdoctor, if and when you bring up the topic of sex with him or...

  18. Chapter 14 Give Charitably, and Reap the Rewards
    (pp. 217-226)

    AT THIS STAGE of your life you probably have most of what you will ever need. The time for acquisitions is over; the time for distribution and dissemination is here. This is a special time given all that you possess: love, wisdom, advice, teachable skills, as well as tangible goods such as money, books, works of art, furniture, stocks and bonds, keepsakes of sentimental value, and more. The benefits to the giver are far greater than those of the receiver. This is your opportunity to leave a living legacy with family and friends, as well as religious, educational, artistic, community,...

  19. Chapter 15 Plan for a Good Good-Bye
    (pp. 227-234)

    THINKING ABOUT one’s own death is very personal. For many it has philosophical or religious meanings. Dying is natural. It happens to all living creatures. But during this last phase of our lives, thoughts about death have special importance. On the one hand, we are prepared for it; yet when it is imminent, it may cause another whole range of emotions.

    Of course, we must accept the inevitability of death, and the fact that none of us will get out of this life alive. Accordingly, it comes down tohowwe are going to say good-bye. At least to a...

  20. Chapter 16 Know These Secrets of Successful Living
    (pp. 235-248)

    THANK YOU for having traveled with me this far. I would now like to share with you a few thoughts that are not related just to retirement. They are thoughts that have guided me throughout my life, and they may be of interest and value to you as well.

    They don’t by any stretch of the imagination amount to a coherent philosophy, but you could think of them as “philosophical,” for want of a better word. My life has been graced by enormously good fortune. What success I’ve had I cannot take credit for. That credit belongs instead to a...

  21. Appendix: A to Z Nuggets of Information
    (pp. 249-293)
  22. List of Resources
    (pp. 294-299)
  23. Afterword
    (pp. 300-300)

    I want to thank you for reading this book; I am honored that you have chosen to read it. To some degree you have become acquainted with me, and I wish that I could become more acquainted with you. You could write to me at my e-mail address,, and tell me something about your retirement experience. You could let me know what parts of the book were meaningful to you and which were not. I’d like to hear from you.

    We are all in this together; we are all connected. Throughout history few people have lived as long as...

  24. Index
    (pp. 301-314)
  25. About the Author
    (pp. 315-316)