The Harvard Doctor Who Changed Nursing Homes Forever

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

nursing homes

Moreover, the number of prescriptions for residents was cut in half and the death rate decreased. (The law prohibiting animals from retirement homes has since been repealed.)

Encouraged by the extremely positive effects of the Eden Alternative, Dr. Thomas set up smaller residences that he called Green Houses. These buildings contained private bed- and bathrooms, respectfully providing privacy and dignity for its tenants.

Within six weeks, Thomas had to hire a truck to take away all the wheelchairs from one of the Green Houses; residents found it possible to navigate the smaller building much more easily than a large one and no longer needed wheels to get from one place to another.


As word of the success of these programs spread and Thomas received multiple awards for his innovations, he hoped he could spur a change in how the elderly of our society are viewed. It hasn’t come easily:

“In a contest between doing difficult cultural-transformation work and doing nothing, doing nothing wins, over and over…I learned that even if you put up compelling proof, the structure of the nursing home is tilted strongly toward not changing.” (6)

Clinical studies have shown that our attitude about aging directly correlates to our experience of it. (7)

With the perception of post-middle age as a time of illness and disability, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Changing that perception to accept aging as a natural stage of life with its own rewards (and simply different from other stages of life) is Dr. Thomas’ ultimate goal. (8) Thomas boils down our current approach to seniors and elder care in one word: “ageism”.