Download a copy of the poster here: Tribes of Eden Event in Baltimore
BALTIMORE – August 31 2012 — William H. Thomas, a Harvard-trained physician, award-winning social activist, visionary eldercare reformer, mixed-power farmer, musician, playwright and author, brings his vision for a new old age to Baltimore with a public reading of his new novel Tribes of Eden, hosted by GEDCO at Stadium Place Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Tribes of Eden uses a post-apocalyptic scenario to show how trust, community and wisdom can overcome even the most tyrannical power and repair a broken world.
Thomas said the novel is inspired by his life’s work as a self-proclaimed “nursing home abolitionist” seeking to change the way society views aging. Thomas is founder of The Eden Alternative, a global nonprofit focused on transforming nursing homes into elder-centered communities, and The Green House Project, a revolutionary model to replace institutional nursing homes with smaller, 10-12 person homes. GEDCO’s Stadium Place is home to Maryland’s first Green House Project residence.
The reading is open to the public in the Ednor Apartments II at Stadium Place, 1050 E. 33rd St. — seating is limited, please RSVP by contacting Ted Gross (firstname.lastname@example.org; 410-243-0188).
“Tribes of Eden is a classic thriller and coming-of-age story that people of all ages can enjoy,” said Thomas. “But the story is inspired by and dedicated to the real tribes of Eden, the thousands of people worldwide who believe that elders deserve a place at the heart of society and the opportunity for continued growth throughout life.”
Tribes of Eden, the sequel to Thomas’ 1999 title In the Arms of Elders, is set in the near future after the collapse of society. It follows a mother and her two children as they find refuge in an isolated community hidden from “The GRID,” a totalitarian power that restored order with an iron fist. As The GRID’s virtual new world order begins to threaten the community, a young girl must lead an alliance of the young and old to restore humanity.
Thomas said the novel introduces a new vision of old age that he hopes will counter what he sees as widespread ageism in our society that has been detrimental to efforts to improve the care of older adults.
“As a culture, we fear, loathe and deny the realities of aging,” Thomas said. “We worship youth and blind ourselves to the plight of millions of people who are institutionalized against their will in nursing homes for the sole crime of frailty.”
For two decades, Thomas has been a leader in an international movement to de-institutionalize nursing homes through The Eden Alternative, a philosophy to create long term care environments that provide a “pathway to a life worth living” by promoting relationships and meaningful interactions. Over 27,000 caregivers have been trained in the Eden Alternative philosophy and 200 nursing homes have adopted its practices in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, including Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center in Baltimore.
The Green House Project model is based on the Eden philosophy, and more than 100 Green House Project homes have opened in 27 states. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has invested more than $15 million to replicate the model in all 50 states. Located on the grounds of Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium, Maryland’s first Green House was built and thrives in the heart of the community its elders come from. It is integrated into a larger mixed-income urban retirement community operated by the nonprofit GEDCO that currently includes four apartment buildings for low and moderate-income seniors, a YMCA facility, Memorial Field at the Y, ThanksGiving Place and a community-built playground.
Despite the success of The Eden Alternative and Green House, Thomas argues that “culture change” in long term care is not spreading fast enough to the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes.
“We have more nursing homes in the U.S. than Starbucks coffee shops,” Thomas said. “Nursing homes exist in every community, but they are a part of no community. When we reject old age we reject our elders.”
Thomas said he used a post-apocalyptic scenario to create a dystopian environment in which everyone is stripped of safety, security and independence and put into the power of an authoritarian regime.
“In other words, they experience what it’s like to be placed in a nursing home against their will,” he said.
Storytelling has been an integral part of Thomas’ work since founding The Eden Alternative in 1991. He is author five previous books and two plays, the latest of which, “The Play Not There,” debuts at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis June 8, 2012.
“I’ve found storytelling to be one of the most powerful tools in changing the culture of long term care,” said Thomas, who runs a popular blog on aging at ChangingAging.org. “It has long been my goal to tap into that power to change the broader culture of aging in our society.”
Thomas’ publishing company, Sana Publications, has dedicated all proceeds from the novel to The Eden Alternative global non-profit to support education, innovation and development of new models of “person-centered care” that put the needs of people before the needs of institutions.