Dr. Bill Thomas – Profile of an IMS Research Associate

Dr. Bill Thomas is one of the original members of the IMS Center on Aging and helped to define its purpose and direction. He is also on a mission to re-educate us about how rich our lives can be once we are deemed “old.”  Subject of a recent Washington Post article, Thomas is determined to teach us that the aging process is to be embraced, not shunned.

photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Novelist, playwright, teacher, entrepreneur, physician, Bill deserves enormous credit for trumpeting the value of “Elderhood.”   Dismissing the notion that life is merely defined by three stages: infancy, adolescence, and adulthood, Bill has built an international reputation demonstrating that an additional stage—Elderhood—is both critically underserved and under-appreciated.

He has employed a vast array of vehicles to advance the cause. These include founding a non-profit organization, the Eden Alternative, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of Elders as well as those who care for them. He also founded the Green House Project, an innovative approach to eldercare that has become the basis for new and re-imagined facilities for more effective and humane senior living.

Bill’s latest medium for evangelizing more respectful attitudes towards Elderhood is his Age of Disruption Tour, which spotlights Aging, according to Bill, the greatest of the three most important “inventions” in humankind (the other two being fire and the wheel).

To get the full flavor of the exploration of life beyond adulthood, check out Bill’s ChangingAging.org website. Take twenty minutes to watch Bill deliver a TED Talk on how we must change attitudes and actions when it comes to Aging.

Alive Inside film

If you attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival you may  be one of those who voted Alive Inside the Audience Award. If not, viewing the trailer may inspire you to acquire this extraordinarily moving film, in which Bill Thomas played a key role, that explores how music is so critical to memory.

Laura Bronstein, Executive Director of IMS and a Board member at Eden said, “Bill has been THE leader in re-conceptualizing aging as a normal part of the developmental spectrum. There’s no one else who has had the broad impact he’s had. We’re thrilled to count him a member of our Institute.”

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Missouri School System Uses Community School Precepts to Fashion a Dramatic Turnaround

In case you are not a regular reader of the Washington Post, Emma Brown’s story on the Jennings, Missouri school district is worth your time.

Jennings abuts the town of Ferguson, MO, site of last year’s controversial shooting of Michael Brown. Jennings has long been one of the lowest-performing school districts in the state, and, not surprisingly, is also one of the poorest districts. Median income in Jennings is $28,429. Despite its less than stellar past, in 2015 92 percent of the districts senior high school class graduated on time.

Much of the credit for the stunning turnabout goes to its superintendent, Dr. Tiffany Anderson. She has taken the core concepts of the Community School and put them into practice in her district. This means providing healthcare, clothing and sufficient food to her students, as well as Hope House, a dwelling for its homeless children.

Dr. Anderson’s efforts to serve the whole child and his or her family has resulted in academic success, better attendance rates and full accreditation for the district for the first time in many years.

“Schools can do so much to really impact poverty,” Anderson said. “Some people think if you do all this other stuff, it takes away from focusing on instruction, when really it ensures that you can take kids further academically.”

A similar approach to educating the whole child is underway in Broome County, as part of the Promise Zone initiative, a partnership among Binghamton University, Broome-Tioga BOCES and the Broome County Department of Mental Health.

A comprehensive analysis of the Community School movement is the subject of a forthcoming book by Dr. Laura Bronstein, Dean, Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs, and her colleague, Dr. Susan Mason, of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University.

Dr. Anderson has shown that the approach can make a world of difference to a community struggling to succeed. Their story is a revelation.

IMS launches new blog

Binghamton University’s Institute for Multigenerational Studies (IMS) mission is to develop cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research to support justice and well-being for people across the life span. IMS works for social equity, promotes multicultural and intergenerational perspectives, and recognizes the strengths and value of diversity.

IMS was founded in 2009 at Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs, and guides schools, health, and social service programs through interprofessional applied research. As one of the most interdisciplinary research centers at the University, the Institute fosters rich collaboration across the university and community organizations. Our research associates span professions and disciplines including counseling, education, engineering, human development, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, and social work.