When you think about life in a nursing home, you may think of elderly residents talking, reading or playing Bingo. However, that’s only part of the story at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital and Courtland Gardens Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Some of our residents are as young as three, and they fly, play Frisbee and enjoy catnip.
"They” are pets that also call Levindale and Courtland Gardens home. These animals are part of the Eden Alternative philosophy, which strives to make life worth living for every resident and patient, just like in the Garden of Eden.
The Eden Alternative fights the three plagues of getting older- loneliness, helplessness and boredom, with companionship, empowerment and spontaneity. That’s where our four-legged, feathered and furry residents come in.
It’s not unusual to walk around a corner and see a resident petting a cat or watching fish swim in a tank. These kinds of things brighten residents’ days because many people grow up with animals and miss them if they aren’t around.
The residents, patients and staff members on each hall decide which pet they would like to live with them. Together, the group considers factors such as who will feed, clean up after and walk the animals.
Having pets live at Levindale and Courtland Gardens is only one key to the Eden Alternative. Both nursing homes also have children visit on a regular basis and at Levindale, a greenhouse was built because so many people love to garden.
The Eden Alternative was created in 1991 by William H. Thomas, MD and his wife, Judy Meyers. They wanted the elderly in nursing homes to love life as much as they did. There are about 300 nursing homes across the country that are registered Eden Alternative centers. Levindale and Courtland Gardens are two of only three in Maryland.