Posted: December 29, 2021
“Aging” represents different things to us all. For some, it means retirement from a career or moving out of the family home. For many, it symbolizes big changes and triggers fear… fear of what comes next for me or my loved one; fear of not being needed anymore; fear of not making a contribution somewhere. The Eden Alternative philosophy was created to combat those fears and to help older adults find new meaning and purpose in every phase of aging, regardless of level of living.
The Eden Alternative is a notable shift from a clinical mindset to a Resident Centered culture where you know others in the community, and you are well known. Associates or employees are referred to as Care Partners with residents, each giving and receiving care. They create a balance of giving and receiving as a cohesive Care Team to manage what Eden calls The Three Plagues: boredom, loneliness and helplessness. The Plagues are destructive and painful to well-being so Eden encourages residents to take a dynamic role in Community Life to make sure activities are appealing to a majority. They are asked about their preferences and personal histories so that they are heard by and engaged with the Care Partners who support them. The Eden culture encourages residents to be a driving force behind how we live and grow as a whole. It also stresses that each person has something valuable and unique to contribute.
At Clermont Park, resident contributions shape daily life in many ways. Residents meet by committee with the Dining Leadership to offer menu input. They serve as instructors at Clermont College, the continuing education program where residents learn from their peers. They staff and organize the community gift shop, refreshing the merchandise and running the cash register. Residents formed a performance group that puts on a musical each year, and they manage the entire process, including casting, rehearsals and set designs. They recently spearheaded efforts to beautify the campus by planting over 700 flower bulbs in the fall so we could have an incredible display of color in the spring. Because residents should approve of who is stepping into a prominent role on campus, they participate in the interviews for new leadership members. Residents voted on color palette and furniture style during an update of Clermont Park’s common areas. They voted on what to rename the new restaurant space. All this change is happening in their home, and they are asked to weigh in and lend a voice as we prepare for these exciting new features together.
Eden is a set of tools for community leaders and residents alike. It offers Ten Principles to specifically fight and dismantle the Plagues. These principles teach us that one way to counter loneliness is to make it simple to have companionship, to know each other and be known. This can be accomplished by wearing name tags and introducing new residents to their neighbors and team members immediately. We strike down boredom by offering a variety of activities and opportunities for the spontaneous and unexpected, like classes specifically requested by residents or time and space to engage each other personally. We keep helplessness from taking hold by helping residents find purpose and understanding that we each have something meaningful to contribute. Residents can support each other and the community through volunteering on campus or sharing their unique skills with the whole. Maybe it is editing the resident newsletter or creating artwork to grace the community holiday card. There are endless possibilities, and we celebrate what every person gives. Each contribution is a gift – as unique as the giver – and Eden teaches us to honor them all equally.