Wise leadership essential to Eden Alternative

By HBH - 18 June 2019

Wise leadership essential to Eden Alternative

with Bonnie Robinson, CEO

As you may know, HBH Senior Living was recently awarded the last two of the ten Eden Alternative principles, one of which is ‘wise leadership’. We asked Bonnie Robinson, HBH Senior Living’s CEO, to elaborate on the tenth principle and why it matters.

HBH Senior Living is one of only a few aged care facilities in New Zealand to implement the Eden Alternative, a philosophy of aged care that puts the wellbeing of older people at the centre of everything we do. The premise of the 10th principle is that to overcome the ‘three plagues’ of aged residential care – loneliness, helplessness and boredom – wise leadership is needed.

Bonnie believes that good leadership doesn’t just happen at the head of an organisation, but throughout the organisation.“With the Eden Alternative approach, leadership can and should come from anyone within HBH,” says Bonnie. “Anyone can be a champion for Eden and culture change – although of course, it wouldn’t be implemented without the support of the leadership team and board. Culture change has to happen across the whole organisation – and that takes leadership.”

Bonnie says that implementing the Eden Alternative has seen a huge shift in culture – for residents, for staff and management. “Over the past few years, we’ve transformed HBH from a more institutional environment to a resident-led environment that encourages our residents to feel empowered, active, needed and fulfilled.”

Any culture change of this magnitude is a long-term commitment she says. “It takes years – and you just have to keep at it, knowing that you might fail from time to time. Culture change isn’t always easy – sometimes you need to challenge deep-seated attitudes and people sometimes think they don’t need to change.”

“If you want an easy life, don’t implement the Eden Alternative,” says Bonnie. “The old, institutional ways of aged care were much easier. Everyone knew what was going to happen, every day was much the same and life was orderly. But in other parts of life (for instance, when you’re raising a family), things are never orderly – unplanned stuff just happens. And that’s what the Eden Alternative is all about – adding more spontaneity and liveliness to daily life.”

Lisa Waldren