Xavier Magazine

Aging with Optimism

Albert Parton wants to make the world a little better for the elders in our society. That’s the short explanation for why the 1962 and 1966 graduate came out of retirement to become administrator of the Cridersville Health Care Center. The longer explanation is the nursing facility near Columbus, Ohio, is transitioning into a new concept—the Eden Alternative. Devised by Dr. William Thomas, the Eden Alternative is a blueprint for transforming nursing facilities from warehouses for the frail into vibrant living facilities that more closely mimic the living arrangements elders have known throughout their lives.

“We have to remember what Mother Nature has taught us about vibrant, vigorous living—that’s what we try to do,” Parton says. To create this environment, the 50-bed center has a communal dining area, a kitchen where residents can get involved, and vegetable and flower gardens. There are also grandparenting sessions with elementary students and trips to ballgames with elementary and high school students.

Residents are allowed to keep pets. And instead of “elderly” or “seniors,” residents are “elders.”

Thus far, the program is a success with the elders. “It’s been really positive,” Parton says. “They feel more like living again.”

Parton began his career as a nursing home administrator in Lima, Ohio, in 1971 and moved on to Youngstown, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y. With all that experience, he’s a big advocate of the new approach. “It’s what I think I would want,” he says. “Not only me; people that are buying into this program are feeling good about themselves again.”

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