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September 7, 2007

Renowned Geriatricians Using Shakespeare's King Lear to Teach Grad Students in Aging Services

CONTACT: Kavan Peterson
Office: 410-455-1896
Email: kavan@umbc.edu

BALTIMORE – The Shakespeare tragedy of King Lear, a dying patriarch who tears down his family with him, offers universal insights to the controversies and concepts of aging in our society, says world-renowned geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, a professor at the Erickson School at UMBC, an honors university in Maryland.

Thomas, a visionary with an international reputation as an authority on geriatric medicine and aging, plans to teach King Lear to graduate students this fall in the Erickson School’s newly-launched master’s program in the Management of Aging Services. Thomas will team-teach the innovative course "Aging 600: Concepts and Controversies in Aging," with Judah Ronch, also a professor at the Erickson School and expert on geriatric mental health.

“King Lear is a fabulous study for these students because it shows the consequences of failing to understand and appreciate the true nature of old age,” Thomas said in an interview on National Public Radio Sept. 7. “Although it can seem very dramatic and tragic, it’s not far off from what a lot of people experience as they encounter conflict between generations in old age.”

Just look at driving, Thomas said.

“All the angst and anger and tribulation in King Lear comes close to what can happen when children try to take the keys away from Mom or Dad,” Thomas said.

Thomas discussed his innovative approach to teaching graduate students in aging services on Baltimore National Public Radio affiliate WYPR 88.1 FM’s “Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast.” Click here to listen to the interview or click here to read the transcript.

Although unconventional, Thomas said using Shakespeare to launch a graduate program in aging services would help teach students to see old age in a new way.

“We have to teach leaders who are coming up in our field how to see old age as a time of growth and development, which really positions aging services along side education as a field that focuses on human development,” Thomas said.

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About Dr. Bill Thomas

William H. Thomas, M.D. is a geriatrician and leading authority on the future of aging and longevity. He is founder of the Eden Alternative, a global nonprofit organization, and a professor at the Erickson School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Most recently he developed the Green House, a radically new approach to long term care where nursing homes are torn down and replaced with small, home-like environments where people can live a full and interactive life. In 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a five-year ten million dollar grant to support the launch of Green House projects in all fifty states. He lives in Ithaca, NY, with his wife, Judith Meyers-Thomas, and their five children.

Posted by kavan at September 7, 2007 4:39 PM