Eden Alternative, Green Houses and now MAGIC

Personally, I have been a student and follower of Dr Bill Thomas’ for several decades starting with The Eden Alternative® in the early 1990’s, primarily his approach to alternative care homes.

His dedication to transforming care homes for the those he calls Elders into wholesome living environments began at Chase Memorial Nursing Home in New Berlin in upstate New York. Dr. Atul Gawande gives an entertaining description of Bill’s attempts in his book Being Mortal and in this article “Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?”

Bill Thomas managed to convince the managers of Chase Memorial to add animals and plants to the care-plan.

The results were extraordinary:

  • The number of prescriptions halved
  • With a particular reduction in the use of psychotropic drugs
  • Mortality fell about 15%.

“In a culture that typically views aging as a period of decline, the Eden Alternative philosophy asserts that no matter how old we are or what challenges we live with, life is about continuing to grow.”
“All caregivers and care receivers are described as “care partners,” each an active participant in the balance of giving and receiving.  Together, care partner teams strive to enhance well-being by eliminating the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.”


Green House Project

After launching the the Eden Alternative Dr Bill Thomas began work on the  Green House Project. These homes are modeled on family home structure; individual bedrooms, a kitchen where all meals are prepared from scratch, one large dining table, a living room with a fireplace, laundry, etc. There are no more than 12 residents sharing a home. There are no long hallways, no set-in-stone mealtimes.

“Green Houses are small care homes with the emphasis on home”.

“There are other providers who may, for example, offer care in a smaller, “home-like” setting. But that doesn’t necessarily ensure that the person who lives there has the experience of living in a real home. Nor does it ensure that it is able to cater to an elder’s unique and personal needs. Official Green House homes, on the other hand, combine small size and home layout with advanced staff training and more care time. That ensures that elders receive highly personalized care from a true care partner in a setting that looks and feels like home.”


Bill Thomas’ current project is “MAGIC” which stands for:

Multi-Ability, multiGenerational, Inclusive Community.

“Our goal is to bring together people of different ages, with different abilities and from different backgrounds, and look at ways to inspire and sustain a genuine human community.”

“We all know about Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; we studied it in school. The Supreme Court unanimously declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Now, more than 60 years later, we find that older people too often find themselves living in facilities that include only the old and disabled. One study found that 30 percent of people would rather die than face such a fate. America’s elders are forced to contend with the widespread practice of segregation by age and ability. We know this type of segregation by the alphabet soup of euphemisms we all (myself included) have helped construct: CCRC (Continuous Care Retirement Community), IL (Independent Living), AL (Assisted Living), MC (Memory Care), SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility).”


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