Sunset Stories

The Eden Alternative in Action

Posted by Gayle Young on Jan 28, 2019 11:19:20 AM

In the early 1990s, Bill and Julie Thomas began developing a new approach to elder care. Their cutting-edge method, now known as The Eden Alternative, gave nursing home residents greater privacy, independence, and control over their lives. With the goal to improve the wellbeing of older adults, The Eden Alternative aims to eliminate what Bill Thomas calls the “three plagues” commonly found in senior living facilities: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

Today, Sunset residents find The Eden Alternative deeply ingrained into the organization’s culture. We’re proud to be an Eden-registered community because we believe that elder care is a collaborative partnership between caregivers and care receivers.

Here, then, are some ways in which Sunset Communities is addressing the “three plagues.”

Combating Loneliness

A basic premise of The Eden Alternative is that the best way to prevent loneliness is to nurture companionship. Toward that end, elder care facilities should ensure that residents enjoy “close and continuing” contact with other adults, children, animals, and plants.

At Sunset, we are continually working to engage our residents with others. Social events, educational activities, and informal gatherings encourage elders to socialize with fellow members of the Sunset community. We also look for enriching ways to connect residents with people outside our facilities.

One such effort connects veterans living at Sunset with ROTC students around the nation. What began with residents and students exchanging letters as pen pals quickly evolved into online, face-to-face video conferencing. Residents get to chat with college students throughout the country, and students have opportunities to hear first-hand stories about the military from veterans.

Sunset also promotes companionship through our pet-friendly policies. We recognize the importance of allowing residents to have their beloved pets with them. Time and again, we’ve witnessed how overall wellness improves among our resident dog and cat owners, and how daily contact with animals helps heighten our elders’ quality of life.

Of course, our residents have continuous contact with our staff. Our employees consider seeing our elders to be the highlight of their workdays and even those whose jobs do not involve direct caregiving go out of their way to interact with residents.

Fighting Helplessness

Many senior living residents dislike the notion that they require someone to “take care” of them. Those unwelcome emotions often create feelings of personal helplessness and lost independence. As an antidote to helplessness, Eden-inspired communities look for ways in which residents can provide—not just receive—care.

One way Sunset gets elders involved in providing care is through gardening. At Sunset Village, for example, several residents take joy in maintaining flower beds located throughout the campus. Sunset supplies flowers, seeds, and bulbs, and residents provide loving care—from planting to daily watering.

Taking care of the gardens gives elders a sense of purpose and reminds them that, while they might need assistance with certain aspects of living, they still have meaningful contributions to make in the world.

Overcoming Boredom

Variety and spontaneity create an environment in which interesting and unexpected things can happen. Keeping life unpredictable is essential to fend off boredom.

Sunset offers a variety of activities and social interactions aimed at keeping residents from getting bored. Our Opening Minds Through Art program for memory care residents is a good example. Participants meet weekly to work in various art forms such as watercolors, collages, stenciling, and others. The program helps keep individuals engaged and lets them take pride in their artwork.

Our Summer Concert Series is another avenue for preventing boredom. The outdoor musical events are always a highlight for residents, who often invite family and friends to attend with them.


Sunset Communities is proud to incorporate The Eden Alternative into our caregiving approach. To learn more about, contact us to arrange a tour.

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Topics: Facility News, Long-term Care, Nursing Homes, People, Residential Care, Aging, The Eden Alternative, Assisted Living