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2006 Heinz Award: Dr. William H. Thomas

category_bug_ageism.gif Long-time readers of Time Goes By know of my admiration, respect and enthusiasm for the work of William H. Thomas, M.D. and for the man himself. His book, What Are Old People For?, has been both an affirmation of my own elder advocacy and an inspiration to keep this blog going and expand the areas of aging that it covers.

This morning, the Heinz Family Foundation announces that Dr. Thomas has been selected to receive its 12th annual Human Condition Award. Teresa Heinz, who is chair of the foundation established by her late husband, Senator John Heinz and, I’m sure you will remember from the 2004 presidential campaign, the wife of Senator John Kerry, says:

“With contagious enthusiasm and an unwavering vision, Dr. Thomas has helped bring dignity, joy and love into an environment that has been too long lacking in these essential human qualities. As America continues to age and the nation’s population of seniors doubles over the next quart century, Dr. Thomas’ transformation of our system of long-term care is, quite literally, just what the doctor ordered.

“His ‘Edenization’ of long-term care environments has dramatically improved the quality of life for countless older adults, engaging them in their own care creating active, home-like communities. Because my late husband John was so committed to answering the special problems and needs of the older population, it is especially fitting that this Heinz Award for the Human Condition goes to Dr. Thomas for his ennobling work.”

In the past, I have quoted liberally here and here and here and here and here and in other blog posts from What Are Old People For? and will again. It is so good and so important a work on elders and aging that if I had my way, I’d just reprint the entire book on TGB. But you could buy it for yourself.

On the back burner for Times Goes By during the months of my move to Maine has been a planned series on alternative living arrangements for elders. At the top of the list to be covered is Dr. Thomas’s Eden Alternative along with another elder housing concept he has created called Green Houses, smaller-than-Eden communities of six to ten people that provide high-quality eldercare in environments that feel like home.

In a couple of weeks, TGB will present an interview with Dr. Thomas. Meanwhile, congratulations on the well-deserved Heinz Award to this extraordinary man who has devoted his lifework to countering ageism in all its forms by becoming a force in helping to create a positive elderhood for everyone.


What an interesting concept. I looked at the floor plan, among other things, and would love to see one of these Green Houses in action. Sounds as if the award is truly deserved.

What a great idea! My dad is currently living in an assisted living facility. It's not working out the best. I have talked to my husband about this very thing. Hope they can get it rolling in Denver.

Ronni - although not directly linked to Dr Thomas' ideas, this post at Cool Town Studios would tie in very well.

The opportunity to plan the sort of care you need before you need it, in a community of like minded people sounds brilliant to me.

I have today ordered Dr Thomas' book and I'm looking forward to reading it. I think I may develop a post of my own about these ideas for those of us in the UK. My daughter worked in care homes while at university and was not impressed with the way in which the elders living there were treated.

In passing, if you ever get the chance to see a TV series called 'Waiting for God' then do so - not full of belly laughs but a comedic take on life in an 'old folks' home.

I see the links got corrupted - my fault because I didn't set them up properly.

Cool Town Studios
Waiting for God

Diana has plenty to be angry about - though in full possession of her faculties and with a razor-sharp mind, people refuse to see beyond the ageing exterior and treat her accordingly. They presume her aggression and stinging ripostes to be the rambling eccentricities of a miserable old biddy unable to fend for herself, not realising that it is born of the frustration at their appalling misconception.

The concepts put forth here for Eden are certainly laudable and I would hope increasingly more communities would have such accommodations available for everybody.

As it is now, mostly only those who can afford to live in higher end retirement communities are able to enjoy living in such an environment. Even some of those don't provide some of the amenities described, or, at least, not in the same way.

I, too, have finally purchased Dr. Thomas' book, which I had long intended to do. I look forward to his interview here at TGB.

I've made comments from time to time here suggesting people read the book. How great that you will interview him. One thing you might tell him is to make his blog accessible to non bloggers. I've tried to add a comment to his blog but it wont accept it because I don't have the right "cachet"!

Here's another example, nesting in place

Also, the impetus for the co-housing or co-location (housing) movement was for mixed communities.

I'll have to check on this book.

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