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Sharing the Wisdom of the Aged


If you’re looking for some invaluable lessons about aging well – or wish to share some of your own thoughts on the subject – check out the Legacy Project at Cornell University.

Started in 2004, the project – subtitled “Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans” – is the brainchild of Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell and professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. A research team began asking older adults across the country a simple question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”

Today, the advice from more than 1,500 respondents has been collected in the Legacy Project. In the words of the project itself, the participants “offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.”

The project’s website is organized so that individuals of any age can benefit from the collected wisdom. On the home page, for instance, the advice from respondents (as well as their “solutions to major problems”) has been shaped into “lessons” and divided into 17 major categories. Among them: “Love and Marriage,” “Living With Loss,” and “Staying Connected.”

Not surprisingly – given that the lessons originate with older adults – one of the most interesting and valuable categories is “Aging Well.” Here, readers can find profiles of individuals who are following new paths in retirement, as well as advice about how best to navigate life after 60. Some recent headlines: “Adapting: the Key to Successful Aging,” and “The Best Advice for Parents of Adult Children? Don’t Interfere.”

The project also allows users to contribute their thoughts about critical lessons learned through the years.

If you wish to learn more, Dr. Pillemer has recently published a book as an outgrowth of the project, “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.”


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.