Bill Thomas, an international authority on geriatric medicine and eldercare, was recently featured in a Washington Post profile on his life achievements. Thomas, who is a physician and Erickson School professor, has spent more than twenty years trying to make life better for seniors. His is well-known for developing “The Eden Alternative” — a radical system of humanizing nursing homes by introducing live animals and plants with the idea of making nursing homes feel more like gardens and less like hospitals.
The article describes in detail Dr. Thomas’s goal to make his generation reinvent what it means to be old. “We need to get people out of hospitals, we need to create a rich set of community-based alternatives.” He argues, the goal is “normalizing the entire lifespan instead of separating and stigmatizing one part as something different.”
Dr. Thomas’s numerous achievements include replication of The Eden Alternative in all 50 states and hundreds of institutions in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia, creation of small, intimate residences called “Green Houses,” and traveling the country to raise awareness of the enrichment opportunities that “post-adulthood” provides.
“His genius was to recognize in the nursing-home situation a larger societal problem,” said Judah Ronch, dean of the Erickson School. “He’s two, three, four steps ahead of most people, and they don’t necessarily see how to get there. He’s working on ways to get there, but he’s fighting an uphill battle, because people and society have very entrenched views of aging and what aging is about.”
Read the full article “We’re lucky if we get to be old, physician and professor believes” in the Washington Post. For more on Dr. Thomas’s work, visit the Erickson School website.
Image: Bill Thomas. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.