Changing Aging with Dr. Bill Thomas

April 24, 2018
Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative

It is little more than a week until we convene the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference. What better person could we call upon to pump up hundreds of change agents than Co-founder Dr. Bill Thomas? I recently had the pleasure of chatting with him about his journey in general and the ChangingAging Tour in particular. A living example of how each of us never stops growing and becoming, Dr. Bill challenges us to drive change with a bold and unbridled creativity.  Learn more by reading on and joining Dr. Thomas for the ChangingAging Tour on May 5 at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference.

LB: As a ground breaker for this movement, what wisdom do you most want to share with those just beginning to rethink how we age and care for each other?

BT:  If you are just beginning to rethink how we age and care for each other, the wisdom I most want to share with you is look for wisdom within your community and your heart. All the wisdom you need to radically transform how we age and care for each other can be found there. You have that wisdom. Your colleagues have that wisdom. And most importantly, the Elders or other people you work with have that wisdom. What you need to do is tap into that wisdom and follow it.

LB: As this work has evolved for you over the years, what has been one of your most powerful wake up calls?

BT: Many years back, I was invited to give a guest lecture and, as often happen I was taken to visit a local nursing home and spent time talking to the people who live there. What I discovered was this nursing home had had zero contact with new ideas, new models, new language. The first thing I noticed walking in was the biggest and most severe nursing station I’d ever seen in my life. They were doing things in a way I hadn’t seen in many years. My biggest wake up call was being reminded that the vast majority of institutions aren’t paying any attention to changes and are not asking any questions about how they can do things better. It reminded me that we have a long way to go and can never stop pushing for change.

LB: At what moment did you know you wanted to create the ChangingAging Tour? What was that spark?

BT:  Near the end of 2013, I was facing the prospect of going out on a book tour to promote my upcoming book, Second Wind, and I have to tell you that I was dreading the prospect of doing a traditional book tour. They are really boring and uninspiring. So, I asked myself, how can we make it fun? And almost the first thought I had was this vision of doing a performance where I was on stilts! I wanted to demonstrate that if Elders kept growing on the outside like they do on the inside, they would be 12 feet tall and tower over all of us. I wanted to challenge the perception that because our bodies don’t continue growing, the person doesn’t continue growing. That was the first spark, and I seized on it, and yes, I performed on stilts during our first tour in 2014. To Jude’s relief, I’ve given up the stilts, but the tour continues and gets more fun and inspiring every year.

LB: What audience reactions to the tour have had the most impact on you?

BT:  That’s easy. One audience member told us after the show that we saved his life. He had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and had made preparations to commit suicide. After the show, he said not only had we saved his life, but we’d given him a sense of purpose and meaning he’d never felt before. All of us in the show were dramatically impacted by that reaction.

What are you RISING UP for?

BT:  Well… watch the video clip and find out.

We would like to acknowledge A.G. Rhodes, Parker, and St. George Village for their official sponsorship of the ChangingAging Tour at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference.  It’s not too late to register!

1 Comment. Leave new

Bill – thank you so much for just being YOU! I cannot wait to see you in Atlanta along with all the change agents that want to continue to imagine a new world for us all as we age. I know it will fill my bucket to be inspired by everyone at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference.


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