Hugh Hefner's Final Days: 'Playboy' Founder 'Hadn't Been Doing Well for the Last Year'

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Cultural icon Hugh Hefner, who died on Wednesday, seemed like the kind of person who would live forever, but new information on his final days reveals that the 91-year-old's health was slowly failing him.

A source close to Hefner's family tells ET, "Hef hadn't been doing well for the last year. [His death] wasn't shocking to the family." 

"Everyone is obviously sad, but they feel he lived a very fulfilling and long life" the source added.

Pamela Anderson also revealed in her tribute on Instagram that the legendary publisher was not well and faced mobility issues. In her post she wrote, "I'm in such deep shock. But you were old, your back hurt you so much. Last time I saw you, you were using a walker. You didn't want me to see. You couldn't hear."

Last year, the Playboy magazine mogul faced death rumors, but he quickly shot those down with his typical wit and humor.

"I wish the tabloids had informed me a little earlier in the week that I'm sick," Hefner joked in response to the rumors. "I might have canceled my weekend plans."

"It is no secret that over the past few years he has suffered with back pain that has made it a bit more challenging for him to get around," a source told ET at the time. "But at 90 years of age he is enjoying his life and still very involved in the day-to-day activities of editing the magazine.”

Over the years, Hefner certainly displayed some interesting health habits that may have contributed to his long life. According to a source,  he only ate food prepared by Playboy Mansion chefs. If he traveled anywhere, all his favorite meals were prepared at home, boxed up in coolers and flown with him on the jet. He reportedly never ate hotel food.

Hefner also traveled with a physician wherever he went, a practice that dates back to 2006. According to the source, one time on a trip to Las Vegas, Hefner choked on a piece of food at dinner while the traveling doctor was at the table, which probably saved his life.  

As his health declined, Hefner appeared in public less and less. The last time he was photographed at the famous Playboy Mansion party was Halloween 2015, alongside his wife, Crystal.

Hugh Hefner and Wife Crystal Hefner Playboy Mansion Halloween 2015
Photo: Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy

And his last public appearance at the Mansion was in May 2016, for the official announcement of Playmate of the Year Eugena Washington.

Hugh Hefner Playboy Mansion May 2016 with Playmate of the Year Eugena Washington
Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy

After that, Hefner wasn't seen much publicly, but he did appear in one final Instagram with his sons, Marston and Cooper, in June of this year, celebrating Father's Day with a game of backgammon. 

When news of his father's death broke, Cooper shared a touching statement on his life and legacy. 

"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom," said Cooper, who currently serves as Chief Creative Officer at Playboy Enterprises.

"He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history," Cooper added. "He will be greatly missed by many."

For more on Hefner's life, watch the video below.