Proactive Aging among Holocaust Survivors: Striving for the Best Possible Life

Roni Elran-Barak, Adi Barak, Jacob Lomranz, Yael Benyamini

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Objectives: 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. Method: 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. Results: Holocaust survivors were signifcantly less likely to mention methods coded as 'Enjoyment' (32.3%) relative to postwar (43.7%) and prewar (46.2%) immigrants and signifcantly 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. Discussion: 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 fndings 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1446-1456
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was made possible through the contribution of the Holocaust Survivors Axel Stawski Research Fund on She’erit Hapleta and was also supported in part by the Sarah Peleg Foundation. R. Elran-Barak was partly supported by the Inga Gotfarb Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s).


  • Holocaust survivors
  • Open-ended question
  • Proactive aging
  • Successful aging


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