Eden Alternative




In 1991 Dr. William Thomas, a Harvard educated physician, began work on an exciting approach to long-term care that creates energy, vitality and a love of life within the nursing home. The Eden Alternative is based on the simple realization that human beings are not naturally suited to life in an institution.

The concept Dr. Thomas envisioned was to improve the quality of life for people who live and work in long-term care facilities. This new way of thinking teaches us to see nursing homes as habitats for human beings, rather than institutions for the frail and elderly.

The Eden Alternative seeks to eliminate the three plagues of long-term care institutions: loneliness, helplessness and boredom. We want to show others how companion animals, the opportunity to care for other living things, and the variety and spontaneity that mark an enlivened environment can succeed where pills and therapies fail. Our goal is to weave together the philosophy of the Eden Alternative with practical applications and make it work in the real world of long-term care.

The Eden Alternative is not a program, but a never-ending process. It places the maximum possible decision-making power in the hands of the residents and those who work closest to them. It provides residents with easy access to companionship, promotes resident participation in daily life happenings, puts the resident before tasks and de-emphasizes the programmed approach to life. Relationships are the fundamental building blocks of our culture and we believe that each person can and does make a difference.

SEM Haven is an Eden Registry Member. 

The Ten Principles of The Eden Alternative

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 continuing contact with people of all ages and abilities, as well as plants and animals. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway to 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 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 interactions and happenings 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 possible decision-making authority into the hands of the Elders or into the hands of those closest to them.

9. Creating an Elder-centered community is a never-ending process. Human growth must 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.