I'm 44 and the best method I've found to avoid joint problems is to maintain a physical balance. I make sure I work my mid back equally on bench days. Lats equally with shoulders on Clean&Press days, etc. That and light supplementary work along with cardio and stretching seems to help as well.
Also, if your shoulders are a problem, don't disregard internal and external rotational exersizes. They may be boring but they keep the rotator cuff healthy. I found that one out the hard way.. After recommendations from my physical therapist.
I agree with your system too. I usually start with an empty bar and work up on Max Effort days. As an additional benefit, it provides more of an overall workload than jumping right up to the "show-off" loads.