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Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development Hardcover – January 9, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st edition (January 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316989363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316989367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #583,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sandra D. Peters on January 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While many individuals may find the reading is too classic textbook and dry for their liking, as one who has studied behavioural psychology, I found the book extremely mind-absorbing.
The book closely follows a study of 824 individuals from birth through to old age and shows us how we can prolong our years and health. While genetics do play a role, there is little we can do to change our genetic make-up. What we can do is change our habits and day-to-day way of living. Easier said than done, but a choice, from a health perspective, that may yeild benefits as the years slowly slip by. One may think that avoiding alcohol and smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are old hat issues, but the author shows just how dramatically those things can and do affect our remaining years. He also shows how sharing a happy, loving relationship can enhance our feeling of well being. Continuing the education process can also increase our state of health by challenging our mind and keeping it active and alert.
Hopefully, younger, health conscious individuals will take avantage of reading this book in order to prevent many of the pitfalls we fall into as we age. Some of us wait until that magic middle-age crisis hits before we realize what we should have been doing years ago. However, it is never too late to change and many readers will find valuable information here that may make the aging years more fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable. A book, also highly recommended, is "The Wisdom of the Ego" by the same author.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Aging Well" is a book that does not clearly establish what it wants to say specifically about aging. Is it a book about longevity or is it a textbook on adult development? A main purpose of the author is to convey the findings of a multi-decade study of three distinct groups totaling about 800 individuals as they aged: a male Harvard student cohort born in 1920; a male inner city cohort born about 1930; and a gifted female cohort born in California about 1910. However the emphasis is on the Harvard cohort, a group that most assuredly stands apart from typical American lives. All of the interviewees were at least 70 years of age by 2000 but the specific commonality of longevity seems to get lost in the author's focus on more general social and emotional developmental concerns. However, the author establishes little connection between longevity and such development.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the book is that only a very limited, and at times inadequate, overview is presented regarding various social and emotional developmental topics. The author bases the entire book on Erik Erikson's ideas about adult developmental stages, which in his interpretation consists of the sequential tasks of identity, intimacy, career consolidation, generativity, keeper of the meaning, and integrity. There is no discussion about the legitimacy of those ideas or whether there are alternative ideas. The principal means of elaborating on those views is by presenting mini-profiles of about 50 individuals throughout the book who supposedly have or have not attained a particular level of development. It is burdensome for the reader to be presented with so many case studies to weigh.
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Format: Paperback
Mountains of research was reviewed to write this book. For that effort I added an additional star to the three I gave for the book itself. The three studies referenced in this book began before the author was born or when he was a youngster. Dr. Vaillant's participation with these projects began decades later. This data was fragmented and resided on many different mediums. He undertook the task of getting all the data compiled onto a hard drive. His next task was to correlate the data (which was not always consistent between the three studies) to form meaningful patterns about aging.
His book is an "attempt to offer models for how to live from retirement to past 80 with joy". Comparing his pursuit to Dr. Spock's career in the study of child development, the author also perceives his book as "an attempt to anticipate development of old age and understand what can be changed and what has to be accepted."
Using composite histories of the study participants for comparison, six adult life tasks are reviewed: Identity, Intimacy, Career Consolidation, Generativity, Keeper of the Meaning and Integrity. The author strives to determine if we are genetically predisposed in how we experience these phases or in some cases choose to stay indefinitely in a phase that is comfortable rather than move on to experience another.
I read this book out of curiousity about the experiences of advanced aging in the United States and feel I now have a good foundation for developing a philosophy about my own aging process.
This book is not a deep scholarly rendition, however, the majority of the 300+ pages examing statistical data and percentage references became tiresome and difficult to analyze in lengthy reading sessions.
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