Spreading the Culture Change Message

April 21, 2011
The Eden Alternative

How do we spread the message of culture change and the Eden Alternative philosophy? This week we have a powerful example from Dotty St. Amand, executive director of the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Fort Myers, Florida. Dotty published a column in her local newspaper detailing the principles of the Eden Alternative as laid out in Dr. Bill Thomas’ book “In the Arms of Elders: A Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building.” Submitting an editorial or letter-to-the editor is a great way to share the message of culture change in your community. And thanks to the internet, that message can resound beyond your community to the whole world:

Love, variety, responsibility bolster elders

By Dotty St. Amand

In his book “In the Arms of Elders: A Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building,” author William H. Thomas shares his philosophy that loneliness, helplessness and boredom are the three plagues that account for the bulk of suffering among our elders.

Thomas, a physician, presents a philosophy of care and respect for our elders that includes identifying antidotes to overcome the challenges of each plague.

Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. In Dr. Thomas’ plan, which health care professionals know as the Eden Alternative, a dignified life that encourages older people to stay engaged in their community centers around close and continuing contact with children, plants and animals in their daily lives.

The antidote to helplessness is to give as well as receive care throughout later life. According to Dr. Thomas, a healthy human community promotes both of these virtues while seeking to maintain balance between the two.

Engaging our elders in the care of the children, plants and pets accomplishes this goal as well as providing loving companionship.

Filling our lives with variety and spontaneity provides an antidote for boredom. Throughout our lives, adding variety and spontaneity is an important element of living a pleasurable and worthwhile life.

We should encourage individuals of all ages to take a chance and do something out of their ordinary routine throughout the life span.

The lessons we can learn from Dr. Thomas’ book are that we should bring spontaneity and variety to the lives of our elders and encourage companionship at every stage of life. We should also give our elders every opportunity to care for others in addition to receiving care.

People are living longer, which presents an excellent opportunity for multigenerational care within the family. Encourage older people to help with the care of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dr. Thomas’ book and theories are used to teach future health care providers in college classes as well as re-energize more seasoned care providers through continuing education programs. His work is well-known in the field of aging and long term care. Bringing it to the general public will help us expand the good work that comes from embracing his philosophy of caring for older adults.

Hopefully, each person reading this article will find a way to help engage an elder today. Think of the many wonderful things you can learn from their many years of experience and wisdom while giving back companionship to them.


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