Dr. Bill Thomas
About Dr. Bill Thomas - Physician, Entrepreneur, International Longevity Expert and Visionary Culture Warrior:
Dr. Bill Thomas is a humanitarian who advocates that “What we need is a radical reinterpretation of longevity that makes elders (and their needs) central to our collective pursuit of happiness and well-being.” He is an author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. Best known for his health care system innovations, Dr. Thomas is the founder of a global non-profit (The Eden Alternative) which works to improve the care provided to older people. He is the creator of The Green House® which Provider Magazine has called the “Pinnacle of Culture Change.” Dr. Thomas also developed the Senior ER Model of Care and is now working to transform the acute care services provided to elders.
His synthesis of inspiration, imagination and action led the Wall Street Journal to highlight Dr. Thomas as one of the nation’s “Top 10 Innovators” changing the future of retirement in America and U.S. News and World Report to name him as one of “America’s Best Leaders.” The magazine noted his “startling commonsense ideas and his ability to persuade others to take a risk,” and concluded that “this creative and wildly exuberant country doctor has become something of a culture changer -- re-imagining how Americans will approach aging in the 21st century.”
Dr. Thomas recently starred in the Sundance award-winning documentary Alive Inside. He has been traveling the country since 2014 starring in what he calls his ChangingAging tour, a traveling pro-aging festival featuring “non-fiction theater" stage performances, workshops and community expos. “People hear that a doctor is coming to town to talk about aging and they expect me to show up wearing a white coat with PowerPoint slides. I show up with a guitar, a bass player, a theater set, costumes, music, art, mythology, storytelling, biography, and neuroscience all mixed up. It’s kind of like a TED Talk on steroids.” The ChangingAging tour has visited more than 130 communities in the U.S. and Canada.
A firm believer in data, Dr. Thomas made the most of his 130+ city tour to ask thousands of elders the question, “What is the biggest challenge facing you as you age?” The data pointed overwhelmingly to the lack of housing options that allow people to age in the place and manner of their choosing. This led Dr. Thomas to his newest innovation, Minka Homes and Communities. Minka is an innovative production system to rapidly print compact houses optimized for elder-living and designed around universal accessibility. Dr. Thomas and his team are currently developing a number of pocket Minka neighboorhoods in the United States.
Dr. Thomas’ books include Principia Senescentis; Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life; Tribes of Eden; and What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World. He blogs regularly at ChangingAging.org and lives in Ithaca, New York.
What Dr. Bill Thomas Talks About:
The Four Types of Ageism
A recent survey of people over 60 found that nearly 80% of respondents reported experiencing ageism. Typical examples included episodes in which others had assumed the presence of memory or physical impairments simply because of a person’s age. Thirty-one percent reported being ignored or not taken seriously because of their age. The survey found that the most frequent type of ageism — reported by 58% of respondents — was being told a joke that pokes fun at older people. But negative assumptions about older people are only a quarter of the problem. Positive and negative assumptions about older and younger people are all damaging, and all reinforce the most ageist idea in our culture: that youth is the greatest virtue, and getting old is synonymous with decline.
Does this matter? Yes, it does. Ageism compromises the health and well-being of older adults. Ageism strips our communities of multi-generational engagement and reciprocity. Ageism diminishes the ability of older people to experience the richness and meaning of life after adulthood — elderhood.
What are Old People For (and Why Should I Hire Them)?
We are witnesses to a world-historic achievement. We have made what was once a rarity — entry into old age — into something quite ordinary. Hundreds of millions of people expect to grow old and will very likely do so. Even better we have fashioned an old age that routinely yields the happiest of years of one’s life.
At the same time, we work ceaselessly to snatch defeat from the jaws of this great victory.
Our times are defined, in part, by a widespread and perilous aging illiteracy. We are told that old age brings only a boring conformity. We are told that aging narrows our range of experiences and diminishes our value. In fact, the opposite is true. People commonly believe and repeat a range of myths, falsehoods and stereotypes about human aging — and are unable to answer the most basic questions about the nature of independence and longevity.
In this talk, Bill will work though concepts of his book Principia Senescentis and examine the true nature of human aging, exposing the modern mythology that places independence at the heart of dignity.
The M.A.G.I.C. of Elderhood
An imaginative look at how all of us can have some MAGIC (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Intentional, Community) in our lives. From a sociological perspective, Dr. Bill Thomas promotes the “rise of elderhood” and recognizes the value of this important life stage for individuals and society. He asks the question “What do people really want?” in their care, in their living environment and in life. With a quarter century of experience creating and replicating new approaches to health and well-being, Dr. Thomas’ latest innovation, Minka, is focused on helping people of all ages live where and how they wish. The deceptively simple design of Minka is based on research into human complexity and of input from some of our culture’s most vulnerable people.
MESH – Move, Eat, Sleep Heal
People frequently ask Dr. Thomas, a board-certified geriatrician, medical advice for living well in the second half of life. People have come to expect certain answers: do your exercises, seek good nutrition, get eight hours of sleep and take your medicine as prescribed. Dr. Thomas takes a wildly different approach, turning these widely accepted concepts inside out, and instead getting to the root of what makes older people happy.
Once we’ve understood MESH, Dr. Thomas will tackle the dreaded “senior moment.” Dr. Bill will take his audience on a journey to explore senior moments, and explain a neuroscientific concept called “gist” and why it’s actually a mental superpower that only comes with aging.
Story making, this is the way we can grow as a culture into a new way of being and seeing. Thank you for your openhearted honesty and truth telling. You inspire goodness in all those you touch.
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