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20 June 2005

Eden Care

A new program called Eden is hoping to let older people live in a more rewarding way.


PETRA NEELEMAN, DUTCHCARE CEO: We have the dogs and the kids and the plants and the residents are involved in that but they also help with the washing, they help fold the washing. They are involved in the decision-making. Now I know that happens in a lot of aged care facilities but we really focus on it. We try to be resident-directed so that they are telling us what they want, it's their house and we come in daily as visitors to help them in their daily life.

LISA WHITEHEAD, REPORTER: This nursing home and hostel in Melbourne's outer east managed by Petra Neeleman is designed and built the Eden way.

That means small group households of 15, accessible gardens and meeting places like this coffee shop run by volunteers.

76 elderly people from Melbourne's Dutch community and a menagerie of pets call it home - a key word in the Eden vocabulary.

PETRA NEELEMAN: When we say we would do this at home and we are not doing it here we try and find a way in which we can change what we are doing to make it home for the people that live here.

LISA WHITEHEAD: The residents here are called elders, it's a way of reinforcing the Eden philosophy of respecting the wisdom of the elderly.

DR BILL THOMAS, GERONTOLOGIST: If the elders are at the centre of what is going on, their decisions about what their day should be like or what their routine should be like or what the food they eat should be like - their feelings and their opinions and their decisions on those matters are really central.

In a traditional institution, it's actually the senior management that makes those decisions and then enforce behaviour on the part of the staff to make that happen and we think that's a pretty dysfunctional system.

LISA WHITEHEAD: Gerontologist Dr Bill Thomas worked in aged care facilities in the United States treating the residents' medical conditions, doling out medicines and writing prescriptions. But after a visit to one elderly woman's bedside, he began to believe there had to be a better way.

DR BILL THOMAS: Just as I was about to leave this woman who was largely confined to bed took a hold of my arm and pulled me down over the bed and looked right into my eyes and said "I'm so lonely". And I staggered away because I didn't know what to do and that day I started looking for a way to find an antidote to that terrible loneliness she was suffering from.

LISA WHITEHEAD: That antidote to boredom and loneliness became the "Eden Alternative".

Dr Bill Thomas was in Melbourne this week to spread the word. At this seminar most staff had already adopted some of the strategies set out in his book.

WENDY WADDELL, AV'E MARIA VILLAGE, SHEPPARTON: We've got a huge almost commercial vegie patch which is operated by the residents so lots of involvement on a day-to-day basis.

PETRA NEELEMAN: We focus on helping people to do things for themselves and that gives them a reason to live.

DR BILL THOMAS: 90% of what you read and see on television is about how older people need us. That's only half the story. We need them.

Without elders functioning as a part of our society it's very difficult to build a healthy, sustainable human community.


story notes

nursing home
A nursing home is a home where old people live who cannot take care of themselves.


designed
planned

built
Here built is the past participle of the irregular verb build.
more information: build

Eden
The name Eden refers to the Garden of Eden. Thatís the place Adam and Eve lived in the Bible. Itís come to mean any delightful, happy place.

households
A household is the group of people who live in a house.

accessible
To be accessible means easy to get to.

volunteers
people who work for free

elderly
Elderly means old. We often use the term elderly with people, because it sounds more polite than Ďoldí.

key word in the Eden vocabulary
A key word in a vocabulary means a very important idea in a field.

elders
Elders means elderly people, or old people. But itís a term that shows a lot of respect.

reinforcing
strengthening

philosophy
A philosophy is a set of beliefs

respecting the wisdom
Respecting the wisdom means recognising the importance of what the elders know. They have a lot of knowledge about the world.

central
Central is the adjective from centre. It means in, near or at the centre.