The Eden Alternative is “down under” in Australia and New Zealand too

February 25, 2014
Virgil Thomas,

Thanks to Sally Hopkins, Eden Regional Co-ordinator, Australia and New Zealand

Just over 12 years ago, six enthusiastic and farseeing individuals from Australia heard Dr Bill Thomas speak about an alternative model of care for people living in residential environments – The Eden Alternative.  From that moment onwards, the Eden Alternative was to come into being in Australia.  In 2007 the Eden Alternative travelled ‘across the ditch’ from Australia to New Zealand and the combined entity of Eden in Oz & NZ was created.  

In the beginning…

Many people who heard Dr Thomas speak grabbed onto…”Oh, all we need to create a human habitat is – plants, animals and children…easy! …Tick!!!”  They heard that the antidote to Boredom was spontaneity and variety. “Ok great, activities & lifestyle people can implement the Eden programme…Tick!!! and “we only need to train a couple of staff to get things going, she’ll be right!!!…”

 What they overlooked was that:

(a)   there are three plagues – loneliness, helplessness and boredom with relevant antidotes

(b)   there are another 8 Eden Principles to consider

(c)    you need to educate staff, residents, families about the philosophy of resident directed care and the reasons why

(d)   “cherry picking’ the Eden Principles to suit yourself indicates that you aren’t serious about real change and you not focusing upon the reality that Loneliness, Helplessness and Boredom do exist; and

(e)   culture change isn’t for sissies…it’s hard work to start but rewarding as you progress.  You need wise leadership from the top down…

What does this mean for both countries? 

Well, we can happily say that for those individuals and organisations who have and are adopting the Eden Alternative as their model of care, the world is becoming a better place for elders and staff in both residential and community care settings.

People who attend the 3 day Eden Associate course are great people, providing care with ‘heart’ but the medical system is broken and not fulfilling.  The Eden Alternative gives everyone hope for a better future.  The current medical model is passé and the Eden Alternative definitely provides the framework that homes and organisations understand and can implement with great success.

Organisationally, homes and centres that implement the Eden Alternative and join the Eden registry remark on the following:

(a)   there is more noise

(b)   there’s an increase in visitors, families and volunteers

(c)    residents are more engaged in daily living and decision making

(d)   staff are happier and staying…they don’t want to work anywhere else

(e)   plants, animals and children make their day

(f)     Many say, this is now ‘my home’ and I don’t want to be anywhere else

(g)    Innovation is encouraged and creativity is off the charts!!!

We know that the broader community sees the provision of residential care environments as a necessary evil, with the attitude of “if there’s a time when I might need support, don’t‘ put me in there”.

However, Eden registered homes are paving the way for great innovation, operational change and success.  Residents are living longer, more fulfilling lives.  They are a part of new staff selection panels.  They participate in strategic planning sessions with the Board.  The focus on wellbeing means that they are getting better and are healthier for longer…so much so that in one instance a gentlemen who moved into a rest home in New Zealand recently went back out into the community.  This is a wonderful achievement.

How good would it be if everyone who was able was encouraged to move back out into the community with the appropriate support network to continue living a life worth living?

The next generation of aging individuals – read, “Baby Boomers” have much to be thankful for the pioneering homes and community centres in both Australia and New Zealand who are proud of their Eden Alternative commitment and achievements.

To date we have a number of residential homes and community care centres who have achieved recognition in all 10 Eden Principles.  We have many new organisations who are well on their way to achieving the same milestones.  They are all making a significant contribution to culture change in aged care and the journey for us all is a fascinating one.

We are proudly supporting and developing the Eden Alternative in the Southern Hemisphere and the “Eden Alternative Virus” is catching!!!


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2 Comments. Leave new

How does one find out where the Eden Alternative is being put into practice in Australia?


Hi Jill,
there’s a website
where you can lookup locations in Australia and lots of other information.
Hope this helps.


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