Virginia Bell Celebrating 100 Years

National Leader in Dementia Care Virginia Bell Celebrates 100th Birthday

Virginia BellJune 30 marks the 100th birthday of Virginia Bell, one of the most influential thought leaders in the field of dementia care over the last four decades, who continues to this day to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. Her Best Friends™ model of dementia care transforms attitudes in care institutions and among families about a debilitating disease. An author, speaker, and advocate, her work has profoundly influenced the lives of untold individuals, and her Best Friends approach to dementia care continues to be adopted world-wide by care programs.

If you are interested in learning more or scheduling an interview with Virginia, please contact Kaitlin Konecke, Marketing Manager, Health Professions Press. (

Download the media kit!

Includes a profile on Virginia Bell titled, “You Have to Be a Rebel Sometimes.” Also includes soundbites from Virginia, fast facts, sample interview questions, and endorsements from professionals who use Best Friends. Plus, a detailed timeline of the Best Friends approach!


Read an interview with Virginia!

Virginia Bell looks back on 100 years, her professional career, and working with people with dementia, and looks forward towards the future of dementia care. Plus, her plans for her 100th birthday party!

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Check out the History of Best Friends

This fun and colorful timeline walks you through the history of Best Friends, from the Helping Hand Day Center in Lexington, KY in the 1980s, to the next book in the Best Friends series coming 2023!

View History of Best Friends  

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Learn More About the Best Friends Approach

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Virginia Bell posing with The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care book


Bell’s remarkable career began at age 60, when she earned a master’s degree in social work and then focused on dementia services. Part of the early movement to provide respite to caregivers, her Helping Hand Center in Lexington, KY, received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to become one of the first dementia-specific adult day centers. At that time, dementia services focused only on the needs of caregivers, but Bell understood that the person with the diagnosis had equally important needs that were not being met. She formulated a life-affirming care model for the whole person and developed the “Dementia Bill of Rights”—a list of 12 rights stressing the compassion, empathy, and respect that every person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias deserves.

In her approach to care, you treat the person with dementia as you would a friend— Know their personality, laugh and spend time together, and provide comfort and support. Incorporating these essential elements of friendship into dementia care gives care partners the knowledge and skills to provide individualized care within a trust-filled relationship. And it helps the person with dementia feel safe, secure, and valued. The result is less distress for all.

In 1996, Bell coauthored with David Troxel a seminal book that helped revolutionize long-term care: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care (Health Professions Press). From there, she went on to coauthor six additional books on the approach, including a second edition of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care (Health Professions Press, 2017). The books have been published in multiple languages, and the approach has been adopted around the world, fostering more than 500 certified experts who have completed a Master Trainer program.

“For more than 25 years, I have worked with Virginia on her books and educational programs, and she truly embodies the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself,” says Mary Magnus, Director of Publications and Best Friends™ Program Manager for Health Professions Press. “By showing the world what this looks like in dementia care, she has profoundly transformed the daily lives of those experiencing the challenges of this devastating disease.”

In her long career, Virginia Bell has spoken around the world and won dozens of awards. Even as she turns 100 in 2022, she remains devoted to her mission and is not slowing down. She continues to volunteer in the day center she founded and to advise state officials on best practices in caring for people with dementia. She’s also involved with Dementia Friendly Lexington, part of the national Dementia Friendly America campaign to build community supports for people with memory loss.

If you’d like to make a donation in Virginia’s name, here are two great organizations that are important to Virginia: