Optimal Aging Manual, a Tome for Wellness and Security

Article excerpt

Optimal Aging Manual: Your Guide From Experts in Medicine, Law and Finance, edited by Kevin W. O'Neill and Renno L. Peterson (Sarasota, Fla.: Optimal Aging LLC, 2004); hardback, 1, 193 pages; $59.95.

There's some bad news, but also much good to report about the Optimal Aging Manual, touted by the publishers as "must reading for baby boomers and their families." Sporting articles by a mix of 56 doctors, lawyers and financial advisers arranged in three sections ("Your Body," "Special Health Issues" and "Legal and Financial Issues") plus appendices and glossaries of medical and legal terms, this extensively and beautifully illustrated reference work covers 1,193 pages and weighs in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces.

The awkwardness of this hefty text is its main disadvantage, especially for older readers. Optimal Aging would have been more manageable in a set of three books boxed together, for example. In addition, many older eyes will have to strain to follow the somewhat light type against the glare of the glossy pages. Also, tables are presented in colors that can be difficult for aging eyes to see. Many sections are highlighted in pastel colors that tend to blend those sections into other text on the page-a boxed or other high-contrast treatment would have been better.

Optimal Aging is the centerpiece of the Optimal Wellness Group, a consortium based in Sarasota, Fla., that offers an employee wellness program, including the book and a monthly newsletter. The good news is that all three sections of the book, which is available by itself, cover current thought on legal, health and social issues in very thorough, mostly well-presented chapters. Each section concludes with four to six take-home messages that summarize each chapter, along with a list of additional resources.

The legal and financial section provides an excellent review of long-term financial planning, with useful information and advice on when and how to use funds during retirement. The standard financial knowledge of educated middle-aged planners generally does not include strategies for income protection in retirement, an area well covered in Optimal Aging. The readable, often engaging content should fit well within the comfort zone of both lay readers and professionals taking in this important but dry subject matter. The book falls short in that it does not provide basic financial information for lower-income and moderate-income readers who cannot afford to play the equity markets. Nevertheless, many people in these income brackets have retirement plans provided through their workplace, so essential information about these plans and on how pension systems operate would have been helpful.

The book includes pleasing watercolors and drawings throughout the text. …