Celebrating International Eden Elders

July 10, 2014
Denise Hyde

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Elder care partners, from all over the world, are making extraordinary efforts to apply the Eden Alternative Philosophy and creating a life worth living for themselves and others. At the 2014 Eden Alternative International Conference, care partners were invited to nominate Elders they knew for the International Eden Elder Award.

For example, Wil Bernthal, living at Frasier Meadows Assisted Living in Boulder, CO. His home was damaged in a flood in 2013. As Resident Council President, he has been committed to keeping the flood-displaced Elder care partners connected with their home while it is under repairs. And this is no easy task as they are living in many different locations right now. He has brought his incredible passion to the task of ensuring Elders have a voice in their community.

Or there is Sandra Crabb living at Denali Center in Fairbanks, AK. She took four of her care partners on a 130 mile journey to her home in Central, Alaska recently. The employee care partners that accompanied her thought they were the ones giving a gift to her, instead they received a gift of much more value. Sandra showed them the mountains, rivers and wild flowers all along their travel route. She took them to her home and cooked for them. She demonstrated what it meant to be a respected Elder in her community. At Denali Center, she helped develop an Elder newsletter in their community, which is really fun to read. She also has the Elders making blankets to keep dogs warm on the Yukon Quest Dog Race. She helps interview and hire new employee care partners and leads Zumba classes!

Then there is D.H. Ford from Epworth Villa Retirement Community in Oklahoma City, OK.  She is an Eden Associate in her community and helps to educate others about The Eden Alternative. She is a member of the Tribes of Eden team in her community. She educates new Elders about the philosophy and helps them identify how they can contribute to life in their home. She formed a group called Grand Friends who go to the local child day care center to interact with children. D.H. is a wise friend who carries wisdom, laughter and love all around her community. It was fun to have her be a part of the conference.

We can’t leave out Mary Johnson at Clermont Park in Denver, CO. Mary helped create the Transition Leadership Team (TLT) in her community while some serious construction was happening. In a time that can be filled with high anxiety, she was able to bring Elders together to learn about the changes and be the people others went to when they have questions. Members of the TLT wore “Ask Me” buttons and put together a publication called The Right Stuff to help squelch any rumors and build connections. Then her community implemented the use of touch-screen tablet technology for Elder care partners. Mary rallied around the technology effort and took the training first. Then, she reached out and led classes to help her peers master the tablets. She continues to rally the Elders at Clermont Park, breaking down barriers and building connectedness.

Have you heard about Alice Laman from Oak Manor Health Care Center in McKenzie, TN? She is all about building relationships and serving others. You will often see her sitting and visiting with friends and strangers (who will soon be friends). She helps make homemade pet treats for the local shelter, chocolate strawberries for Valentine’s Day, or raises interest in the Oak Manor Relay for Life team. She is known to start up some card games in the evenings. Alice clearly shows others the power of relationship and building community!

Talk about a life-long learner; let me tell you about Firth Perryman. He lives at the Rochester Presbyterian Home in Rochester, NY. Firth showed his care partners just how important love is as they walked alongside him and his wife Nancy while she was living with dementia. Firth loves to write letters to friends and families and actually put them in a mailbox. Does anyone else remember how to do that? He works at the local library organizing books for book group kits for other avid readers. He takes online college courses that are of interest to him, like Greek mythology. He is an avid photographer. He is also an activist, having no difficulties writing letters to the editor, collecting for the Red Cross during disasters, recycling hearing aide batteries, and advocating on the Eden leadership team in his community. He lives life to the fullest and teaches, nurtures, models, guides and inspires everyone around him.

David Pustolka lives at the Colorado State Veterans Home in Rifle, CO. He feels it is his duty to actively seek information from his fellow Elder care partners and present it back in a format where they can vote on ideas presented. He is very talented in gardening and enjoys sharing that love not only with his peers but the visitors and staff. He supported his peers in helping to develop the pantry, and he shops for the pantry bringing in the items the Elders have requested. David is a smart, compassionate and dedicated soul who understands the physical, emotional and social needs of others.

Lisa Shaheen has a knack of showing people “it can be different.” She lives at Signature HealthCARE of Sunrise Manor in Hodgenville, KY. Lisa learned about the art initiative going on in Signature communities to showcase the talents of Elders. Her desire to participate aided her in finding a new technique to be able to fully express her love of art. Because of her internal strength and courage, she learned to paint holding the brush in her mouth. She is an inspiration to other Elders and their care partners. She also spearheaded fundraising efforts for an Elder’s granddaughter who was diagnosed with leukemia. Together with the larger community, they raised over $20,000 to assist the family with medical expenses. She is an outstanding Elder leader who shows others the power of embracing the possibilities of what people can accomplish when they work together.

Then there is Angelika Shumway from Mission at West Jordan in West Jordan, UT. Angelika is known for going above and beyond for her peers and she never expects anything recognition in return. She truly understands the power of mitzvahs; doing good deeds without expecting anything in return.

Barbara Smullen came to the Eden Alternative International Conference and offered two presentations to the attendees. Barbara is from the Rochester Presbyterian Home in Rochester, NY. She, and her cat companion Princess, are a part of the Guys and Dolls family in her community. Her distinguished career as a nurse and educator made it a natural next step to become an Eden Associate. Now she creates lesson plans and facilitates Eden Teach-Ins for Elders across her community. She has a fun spirit and knows how to capture people’s interest in ongoing growth.

And then there is Art Stucke who lives at the Bruce McCandless Colorado State Veterans Home in Florence, CO. Art spearheaded efforts to bring the Elder care partners in his neighborhood, Mountain View Vista, to actively participate in neighborhood meetings. He writes, prints and distributes a newsletter for his neighborhood. He features current events, moments in history, welcomes new Elders, shares information about employee care partners, includes stories from his adventurous life and adds in lots of great pictures. He keeps people informed and inspired!

These are just a few examples of the boundless gifts received from Elders when the care partners that surround them are open and receptive to all they have to offer. Every day Elders are inspiring others to embrace Elderhood and celebrate life in all of its various phases. Who is an Elder that is inspiring you?





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