Dr. Bill Thomas — Founder
“What we need is a radical reinterpretation of longevity that makes elders (and their needs) central to our collective pursuit of happiness and well-being.” – Dr. Bill Thomas (read full article)
Dr. Bill Thomas is an author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. Best known for his health care system innovations, he is the founder of a global non-profit (The Eden Alternative) which works to improve the care provided to older people. He is the creator of The Green House® which Provider Magazine has called the “pinnacle of culture change.” Dr. Thomas also developed the Senior ER model of care and is now working to transform the acute care services provided to elders.
His synthesis of imagination and action led the Wall Street Journal to highlight Dr. Thomas as one of the nation’s “top 10 innovators” changing the future of retirement in America and US News and World Report to name him as one of “America’s best leaders.” The magazine noted his “startling commonsense ideas and his ability to persuade others to take a risk,” and concluded that “this creative and wildly exuberant country doctor has become something of a culture changer–reimagining how Americans will approach aging in the 21st century.”
Dr. Thomas also starred in the Sundance award-winning documentary Alive Inside. He has been traveling the country since 2014 starring in what he calls his ChangingAging Tour, a “nonfiction theater performance” that has played in over 80 cities. “People hear that a doctor is coming to town to talk about aging and they expect me to show up wearing a white coat with PowerPoint slides. I show up with a guitar, a bass player, a theater set, costumes, music, art, mythology, storytelling, biography, and neuroscience all mixed up. It’s kind of like a TED Talk on steroids.”
One study after another has proven that how we perceive aging, to a very large degree, determines how we age, Thomas says. With the accepted narrative of aging one of decline, disease, and disability, it’s difficult to look upon advancing years in a positive light. Dr. Thomas challenges the negative stereotypes in hopes of changing the narrative. “It’s the story that matters,” he says. “How people interpret their experience goes a long way to determining their wellbeing. So I decided to go out into the world and start changing the story of aging.”
Dr. Thomas says attracting the 70 million baby boomer to the positive aging movement is easy. “These are men and woman who grew up questioning the dominant narrative of the time: sexism, racism, the Vietnam War. They’re looking for a new framework with which to understand aging. They’re looking for a new story to tell. We believe in possibility, change, growth, optimism, spirit and soul. The other side has injections.“
Dr. Thomas’ books include:
- Principia Senescentis
- Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life
- Tribes of Eden
- What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World.
Dr. Thomas is now focused on helping people of all ages live in the place and manner of their choosing. The simple design of Minka is based on research into human complexity and decades of input from some of our culture’s most vulnerable and valuable people. Dr. Thomas has distilled these insights into the Minka building system. The resulting homes and communities are optimized to help people move, eat, sleep and heal. Working with the University of Southern Indiana, Dr. Thomas and his team are developing a community-building model, MAGIC (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Communities).
He blogs regularly here at ChangingAging.org and lives in Ithaca, New York.We’re lucky if we get to be old, physician and professor believes
Kavan Peterson – Co-Founder/Editor
“I think aging is integral to human development and growth, yet much feared and little understood.” — Kavan Peterson
Kavan Peterson is co-founder and editor of ChangingAging.org and an entrepreneur and long-term care reform advocate committed to promoting the equality, sustainability, health and well being of people of all ages.
Working on the cutting-edge of participatory design and community development, Kavan also directs the ChangingAging Tour and co-founded Minka Homes and Communities with Dr. Thomas. A former journalist and NPR contributor, Kavan works nationally on age friendly projects pioneering innovative new models for housing, care and community. In 2015 he launched Harvest Home Care, a revolutionary home-care model designed and self-managed by direct-care workers and elders. As director of ChangingAging’s 2018 “M.A.G.I.C.” pilot project with the University of Southern Indiana, Peterson oversaw construction on campus of Minka’s first model house and co-created an undergraduate course bringing together students and elders to explore the complexity of building self-organized, inclusive, multi-generational communities.
Kavan has worked with Fortune 500 companies, leading foundations and aging services providers to develop new products, services and campaigns. Clients include Amazon, Kimberly Clark, Holiday Retirement, AARP, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Green House Project, among others.
Kavan is an avid wild plant forager, writer and videographer and enjoys caving, mountain tops, vintage motorcycles and boxing. A recent transplant to Seattle with his wife and kids, Kavan is active building local aging-in-community and dementia-friendly initiatives.