Dr. Bill Thomas is changing the story about moving from adulthood into elderhood. He’s an author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. He wrote the book Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life that challenges how boomers are facing aging. And he’s currently on a nation-wide tour visiting cities across the United States to disrupt our narratives about aging.
Highlights from the show
How the Boomer generation was split into three groups, hippies, social activists and squares—but as they aged most Boomers turned into squares.
“A great deal of what happened in the 60s and 70s was improvisation on a mass scale.”
How Boomers embraced an “achievement oriented , performance oriented, outcome oriented, materialistically oriented, hyper-caffeinated, hyperactive, vision of adulthood.”
“If you live a life where your are measured strictly strictly by the standards of high performance adulthood, the older you get, the bigger loser you become.”
How choosing to prioritize being over doing opens the door to elderhood,
The three camps of how boomers are facing aging: The denialists, the realists and the enthusiasts.
“It’s the culture that creates much (not all) of the suffering associated with dementia.”
“Older people live in a season of choosing more to a much greater degree than many younger people,”
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About my guest
Dr. Bill Thomas 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, he 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.
One study after another has proven that how we perceive aging, to a very large degree, determines how we age, Thomas says. With the accepted narrative of aging one of decline, disease, and disability, it’s difficult to look upon advancing years in a positive light. Dr. Thomas challenges the negative stereotypes in hopes of changing the narrative. “It’s the story that matters,” he says. “How people interpret their experience goes a long way to determining their wellbeing. So I decided to go out into the world and start changing the story of aging.”
Dr. Thomas says attracting the 70 million baby boomer to the positive aging movement is easy. “These are men and woman who grew up questioning the dominant narrative of the time: sexism, racism, the Vietnam War. They’re looking for a new framework with which to understand aging. They’re looking for a new story to tell. We believe in possibility, change, growth, optimism, spirit and soul. The other side has injections.“
Dr. Thomas’ books include Principia Senescentis, Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life, Tribes of Eden, What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World. He blogs regularly at ChangingAging.org and lives in Ithaca, New York.
The Show Notes
To learn about his upcoming Changing Aging tour that blends medical science, storytelling and live music to shatter our cultures’s damaging myths about aging check out changingaging.org/tour/