Foundational in all of our caregiving ‘best practices’ is the appreciation and respect for the life-giving aspects of nature. Growing Eden is our way of expressing the inclusion of the Eden Alternative in our communities, a template of values which honors the “elders in our midst” as the key reason for our efforts, and the central voices in the shaping of our community life. The core intention is to replace institutional and corporate models, which emphasize efficiency and predictability, with more home-like environments of lively activity, spontaneity, and purposeful interaction.
In the Eden system, loneliness, helplessness, and boredom are believed to be the three plagues of aging which cause more suffering than most illnesses. Loving companionship, as well as close and continuing contact with plants, animals, and children, are the antidotes to this suffering. Eden environments are intentionally rich with life – plant, animal, and human. The Eden Alternative is a “culture” that requires a constant nurturance of spirited support, and it holds meaningful activities as essential to happiness and well-being.
1. The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our Elders.
2. An Elder-centered community commits to creating a Human Habitat where life revolves around close and continuous contact with plants, animals, and children. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway towards a life worth living.
3. Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.
4. An Elder-centered community creates an opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness.
5. An Elder-centered community imbues daily life with variety and spontaneity by creating an environment in which unexpected and unpredictable happenings and interactions can take place. This is the antidote to boredom.
6. Meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit. The opportunity to do things that we find meaningful is essential to human health.
7. Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.
8. An Elder-centered community honors its Elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum decision-making authority into the hands of the Elders or those closest to them.
9. Creating an Elder-centered community is a never ending process. Human growth should never be separated from human life.
10. Wise leadership is the lifeblood of any struggle against the three plagues. For it, there can be no substitute.
“The care is excellent from top to bottom, from the administrator all the way down the line. It’s like one big happy family.”
–M. J., son