A lonely person needs companionship the way a thirsty person needs water. Companionship is one of the essential ingredients of well-being, yet we pay it little mind. It is too often confused with friendship or even passive participation in group activities. In fact, companionship is the product of knowing and being with others. We are not the companions of people seated near us on a flight to Los Angeles because we do not (and may never want to) know them. Similarly, our best old friends from high school, while still dear to us, are not our companions because we no longer share the rhythms of daily life with them. The professional staff of a nursing home may well take pride in how well they know “their” residents, but they offer little in the way of companionship because they have so little time to be with the Elders. The cult of adulthood demands that staff members always remain busy, and so it structures human relationships around the routines required to ensure that work gets done. Long-term care encourages friendliness in the place of true companionship.
The Eden Alternative shows people how to integrate knowing and being into the daily rhythms of life in long-term care settings. The Eden Alternative Philosophy helps people develop meaningful relationships with each other by teaching them how to learn and understand each others stories. The art of giving care depends on companionship to give the care depth and substance. Without companionship, long-term care can offer only the cruel comfort of strangers feeding, bathing, dressing and entertaining strangers.”
From What Are Old People For? by Dr. William Thomas