With age, comes wisdom.
Attribute to that line whatever you like. I choose to attribute it to the wisdom that comes from having lived a long enough time to be considered living in elderhood, that stage of life following adulthood. William Thomas, author of What are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World, believes in and advocates for elderhood living environments intentionally designed to promote a sanctuary where elders thrive. These are not merely places where elders survive, but places where they can remain vibrant participants in their own lives and the lives of others, regardless of their physical or cognitive capabilities.
Thomas denotes several “Principles for Elderhood’s Sanctuary”:
- Warm – radiating human warmth and developing “the practice of doing good deeds without the expectation of return”
- Small – keep the scale small
- Flat – keep the hierarchy flat
- Rooted – have a “deeply rooted belief system”
- Smart – use of technologies that support the well-being of elders and their care takers
- Green – sustainable places that provide a “connection with the living world” through gardens
With the above principles in mind, Thomas developed The Green House Project, with implementation support from ncb Capital Impact and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Below is a “documentary short” about the project.
John Zeisel is another author who has created a nursing home alternative. I have read his book, I’m Still Here, and blogged about him a few times, so was pleasantly surprised to see he was referenced by Thomas as a resource when Thomas was researching design possibilities for The Green House Project.
William Thomas goes on to paint a picture of elderhood where each person is able to give and receive loving care. He behooves us to reconsider the lives of the oldest of the old as another developmental phase in the life of a human being:
…to see old age as part of the ongoing miracle of human development. It offers a perspective that connects all elements of the human life span from birth to death.
Mostly what Thomas advocates for is a reenvisioning of the last phase of our lives with a return to respect for old age and the wonders it has to offer, and an acknowledgment that how we craft this last stage (including, but not limited to, physical buildings, guiding principles for care, opportunities for participation, equal respect for the care takers and the cared for) will make all the difference in how it is lived.