April 25, 2023

Visiting Bill & Jude Thomas: Connecting the Past, Present, and Future

By Kathy Hagen, Interim CEO, The Eden Alternative

Recently, along with some of the Eden Alternative team and our Board Chair, Angie McAllister, I had the good fortune to spend time with Eden Alternative founders, Dr. Bill and Jude Thomas, at their home on Cayuga Lake, NY. The adventure began by traveling a dirt road going 5 miles an hour, to get to the house. Patience and perseverance were the keys to arriving at this small slice of heaven.

During two clear, sunny days, with a view of the lake, the team bonded over the past, the present, and the potential futures for The Eden Alternative. One highlight was face-timing with past board member, family care partner, and Eden conference convener, Sarah Rowan. We learned lessons from her about life and her illness. We honored Sarah and her strength to work through her pain. She reminded us that others are suffering more than she is.

We connected on a call with Nicole Bigley, one of the first Eden Alternative Regional Coordinators, and we celebrated another EARC with a traditional Bob Bratty dinner where everyone pitched in to prepare and cook the meal.

Reconnecting to the past was grounding and deeply satisfying. It set us firmly on our foundation and gave us strength and context for the present. It reminded us how important our mission is to the people before us, and how much it means that we continue to stand up for the rights of Elders and care partners today.

We connected to the present by learning from Dr. Bill and Angie, who are currently working together for Lifespark, an organization that helps people age magnificently. The Eden Alternative is excited to be partnering with Lifespark on Playing to Win: A Global Symposium on Aging Magnificently, a 10-session online event. During the course, Dr. Bill will share a positive view on aging, help us understand ageism and how to combat it, and offer ways to shift the focus of wellness-related efforts from “me” to “we”. 

Some of our discussions centered around Eden Membership and bringing the Eden Community together by giving members a place to learn, share, and grow. We agreed that having a place where everyone can communicate, no matter their progress in person-directed care, gives new people a place to start. It also serves as a platform for more experienced members to share their challenges and successes. Thanks to Rayne Stroebel from The Eden Alternative in South Africa, for envisioning this groundbreaking “membership” concept for us.

We also talked about possibilities for growth and fulfilling the Eden Alternative mission in deeper ways. We acknowledged that people who implement the Eden Approach see the rewards through happier teams and residents and increased interest from people who want to work and live in their communities.

With newfound knowledge of the road ahead, the trip home was shorter. We challenged the speed limit and took some chances, just like we will as we build a strong future for The Eden Alternative. While patience and perseverance are needed, we’ll face future challenges with optimism and a sense of adventure. We invite you to come along for the ride!