The Eden Alternative is a small not-for-profit organization making a big difference in the world. Based on the core belief that aging should be a continued stage of development and growth, rather than a period of decline.
Institutions that are designed to care for the elderly and improve their health actually make them sicker. The focus has shifted away from the individual needs of residents, and towards the government funding agencies and their requirements. Some of the greatest burden of suffering comes from loneliness, helplessness and boredom, and these are addressed either inadequately or not at all by a system that relies on medications and guidelines to direct care.
The Eden Alternative teaches staff in existing facilities to use tools and resources already available to them to create small “households” within large facilities. The training introduces a complete, principle-centred philosophy designed to move facilities away from being institutions whose purpose is to look after the sick and infirm into habitats built for human beings to live in. This has produced dramatic results – a number of independent studies has shown that in facilities using the Eden Alternative residents took fewer medications, have fewer infections and had a lower mortality rate. There are also lower rates of staff absence and turnover.
Using an approach comprising ten key principles, the Eden Alternative trains staff in organisations to move away from institutional practices towards truly creating a home for people who live and work there. This new form of care focuses less on the culture of increasing medicalization and more on interaction with plants, animals and children in order to provide a fuller quality of life. The Green House project is an entirely new way of delivering long-term care, using community-based homes housing only six to eight elders, and doing away with the need for large institutions entirely. To date over 23,000 Eden Associates have been trained and more than 200 residential homes in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia have been registered with the programme.