The Harvard Doctor Who Changed Nursing Homes Forever

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

nursing homes

Bill Thomas took his crusade to the screen and on the road.

Appearing in “Alive Inside”, a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary, Thomas talks about exploring music as rudimentary to a life worth living:

“We’re not going to see music in the lives of every old person until we change who we are.

We’re going to have to confront our own fear of aging and our own fear of death. If we do that, we can build a society where nursing home means ‘nurturing’ home. Where people go there to grow and live and love and laugh and listen to good music.” (9)


To further the reach of his message, Thomas embarked on what he calls his “Age of Disruption Tour” in which he gives live performances that include music and discussion of the contemporary perception of aging and how we care for the elderly.

The premise of his argument is that caregivers should treat elders as people who need care, not just treatment. The tour has taken him to over eighty cities in the U.S. and has enriched almost thirty thousand people. He also gave an insightful and inspirational TED Talk in San Francisco:

Elderhood rising -- the dawn of a new world age | Bill Thomas | TEDxSF

His efforts have been so successful that hundreds of institutions have adopted Thomas’ approach to elder care in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan-all with positive results.

Radical Reconsideration of Youth and the Ambassador from Elderhood

In Dr. Thomas’ words:

“As a doctor, I was trained and taught that I had to help older people compensate for their losses-well, that’s a horrible frame around which to construct your life. Aging is not the problem. It’s our obsession with youth, our excessive devotion to the virtues of youthful adulthood. It is youth that is throwing our lives out of balance.” (10, 11)


He gives us pause to consider ourselves and our lives’ trajectories: where and how do you want to live when you’re 85? It’s within your power to decide.