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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2018 Oct 10;73(8):1446-1456. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw136.

Proactive Aging Among Holocaust Survivors: Striving for the Best Possible Life.

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The School of Public Health, University of Haifa, Israel.
The Louis and Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.
The School of Social and Community Sciences, Ruppin Academic Center, Emek Hefer, Israel.
School of Psychological Sciences.
Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Israel.



To investigate methods that older Holocaust survivors and their age peers use in order to maintain the best possible life and to examine associations between these methods and subjective well-being.


Participants were 481 older Israelis (mean age 77.4 ± 6.7 years): Holocaust survivors (n = 164), postwar immigrants (n = 183), and prewar immigrants (n = 134). Measures included sociodemographics and indicators of health and well-being. Respondents were asked to answer an open-ended question: "What are the methods you use to maintain the best possible life?". Answers were coded into eight categories.


Holocaust survivors were significantly less likely to mention methods coded as "Enjoyment" (32.3%) relative to postwar (43.7%) and prewar (46.2%) immigrants and significantly more likely to mention methods coded as "Maintaining good health" (39.0%) relative to postwar (27.9%) and prewar (21.6%) immigrants. Controlling for sociodemographics and health status, Holocaust survivors still differed from their peers.


Aging Holocaust survivors tended to focus on more essential/fundamental needs (e.g., health), whereas their peers tended to focus on a wider range of needs (e.g., enjoyment) in their effort to maintain the best possible life. Our findings may add to the proactivity model of successful aging by suggesting that aging individuals in Israel use both proactive (e.g., health) and cognitive (e.g., accepting the present) adaptation methods, regardless of their reported history during the war.


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