Pioneers Set to Change Nursing Homes

When you think of pioneers, perhaps the Gold Rush, covered wagons or John Wayne-type cowboys come to mind. Nursing home reform and societal attitudes toward aging are probably not among your thoughts.

Well, heads up, because the Pioneer Network aims to transform skilled nursing facilities into “places for living and growing, rather than declining and dying.” And the Pioneers’ goals reach beyond nursing home reforms to changing the culture of aging in America.

The Pioneer Network grew out of the nursing home reform movement of the 1970s and evolved into its current structure as a national resource center in 2000. The Pioneers are elder care professionals, advocates and researchers who champion change in nursing homes, congregate independent living, in-home care, adult day care and assisted living facilities.

Nursing homes were the starting point for the Pioneers because they showcase the devaluation of our elders and of those who care for them. Aware that 30 percent of elders would rather die than enter a nursing home, the Pioneers seek to change conventional nursing home culture. The group would like to reorganize traditional nursing home structure so that medical and nursing care support — rather than dominate — residents’ daily routines. The Pioneers propose:

To its credit, the Pioneer Network has spawned other reform movements, including the Regenerative Community, Resident Directed Care and the Eden Alternative. The Pioneers may not swagger like John Wayne, but their mandate to change the very nature of aging in America is just as fierce.

To order publications, be on the mailing list, access speakers or learn of future Pioneer Network activities, call (585) 271-7570 or go online to You can also write to the Pioneer Network, P.O. Box 18648, Rochester, NY 14618.

To view the September 2002 “Quality of Life” Webcast, go to If you’re interested in the next major conference, “Transforming the Face of Eldercare,” to be held Tuesday–Friday in North Myrtle Beach, SC, go online to