With aging, even the worst scenario can be better than you imagined.

I did some keynote speeches at the Fall Metropolitan Conference on Aging in Minneapolis a while back. I received a note from Cathy Clairmont, which said that she would pick me up at the airport. The stationery the note was written on said English Rose Suites. I assumed that was the hotel. I learned, however, that the suites are a group of homes for seniors that need assistance--part of the smaller-is-better "green revolution" in services to seniors.

My mission is to help people live with purpose and live well into their hundreds. My role model is the Energizer Bunny, with alkaline batteries. He just keeps going and going. Alkaline batteries not only last longer, they maintain a constant energy level and then die quickly. But I know that bad things happen to good people and some people develop diseases or disabilities that impair aging well. The prospect of spending years in a nursing home is very depressing.

In the 1970s, I was busy with the "normalization" movement, getting people with mental retardation out of the institutions and living and working in the community. It was a wonderful, heady time seeing people with IQs of 50 being set free from the institutions and living in group homes or supervised apartments and working a wide variety of jobs. In the same era, similar good things were happening with institutionalized psychiatric patients.

Today there is a comparable revolution brewing for elderly people who have disabilities. The green revolution or Green House® projects provide an alternative to sterile nursing homes with their double occupancy rooms, bureaucracy, and unpalatable food. The vision comes from Dr. William Thomas and has start up funding from the Robert Woodcock Johnson Foundation. Dr. Thomas envisioned homes for 6-10 people with plants, pets, sunshine and even children. The staff, and when possible the residents, prepare the meals and all eat together. The movement isn't limited to Dr. Thomas' model. Home grown variations are popping up around the country. Online information includes: http://www.thegreenhouseproject.com.

Despite our population getting older and managed care sending many stroke and surgery patients to nursing homes for rehabilitation, the number of nursing home beds in the U.S. has not been growing nearly as fast as the aging population. Reasons include more people being healthier at older ages, assisted living and independent living alternatives, and soon, the green revolution. The costs are roughly comparable to nursing home care. Besides helping seniors, the homes improve the morale of the staff. The movement received publicity from NPR, the October AARP Bulletin, and Congressional hearings.

My hope is that we all live very long, healthy, rewarding lives, and when we die, we take a cue from the alkaline batteries. But if things don't work out that way, it's good to know there is an option of a good quality of life even with disabilities.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Michael Brickey, America’s preeminent Anti-Aging Psychologist, teaches people to think, feel, look and be more youthful. He is an inspiring keynote speaker and Oprah-featured author. His works include: Defy Aging, 52 baby steps to Grow Young, and Reverse Aging (anti-aging hypnosis CDs. Visit www.DrBrickey.com for a free report on anti-aging secrets and his free Defy Aging Newsletter with practical anti-aging tips. Hear him interview leading anti-aging experts and/or read the interview transcripts with the anti-aging experts.

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