Dr. Bill Thomas is a physician, professor, entrepreneur, playwright, and performer whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. His dedication to culture change and innovations for well-being led the Wall Street Journal to highlight Dr. Thomas as one of the nation’s “top 10 innovators” changing the future of retirement in America and US News and World Report named him to its list of “America’s best leaders.”
He began his career in the field in the early 1990’s when he co-founded The Eden Alternative (with Jude Meyers). This model humanized nursing homes using Care Partner teams that work to enhance well-being of staff and residents by eliminating the three plagues: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. In the early 2000’s he launched The Green House Project which Provider Magazine called the “pinnacle of culture change.” In 2007, Dr. Thomas developed the Senior ER model of care in partnership with the Trinity Health system.
Also in 2007, Dr. Thomas co-founded (with journalist Kavan Peterson) ChangingAging.org a live/digital platform designed to address the endemic ageism within American culture. In 2012 his one-act play “Play What’s Not There” premiered at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The play using magical realism to explore the life challenges physicians confront while juggling practice, self-fulfillment and family. In 2013, he starred in the award-winning documentary Alive Inside. The film’s “joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls” won the 2014 “People’s Choice Award” at Sundance.
In 2014, Dr. Thomas collaborated with Kavan Peterson, to create the ChangingAging Tour. The ChangingAging Tour directly addressed damaging myths about aging and featured two non-fiction theater performances in a “pro-aging festival” over the next four years this tour performed in over 130 cities across North America. Thomas noted that,
People hear that a doctor is coming to town to talk about aging and they expect me to show up wearing a white coat with PowerPoint slides. I show up with a guitar, a faculty of musicians and performers, a theater set with costumes, music, art, mythology, storytelling, and neuroscience all mixed up. It’s kind of like a TED Talk on steroids.
Hundreds of conversations held during the ChangingAging Tour had a profound impact on the path Dr. Thomas’ career as he learned that an overwhelming number of people, living all over the country, shared a primary concern; housing. This discovery led to the creation of his most recent innovation: Minka Homes and Communities. Minka creates technology-forward, human-centered homes and communities that build resilience and simplify independence so that people of all ages and abilities can live their best lives on their own terms.
Dr. Thomas’ books include:
- Principia Senescentis
- Second Wind
- Tribes of Eden
- What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World
- In the Arms of Elders
- Open Heart Open Minds
- Life Worth Living
- The Eden Alternative
Watch Dr. Bill Thomas’ Ted Talk: Elderhood Rising
Watch Dr. Bill Thomas on stage at the Senior Living Innovation Forum