A local therapist who worked with the elderly, pioneered a peer-counseling program, and was influential at Santa Monica’s Center for Healthy Aging has recently passed away.
Evelyn Freeman was the director of a senior counseling program at the former Center for Healthy Aging, which evolved into Wise and Healthy Aging. Merging with Wise Services in 2007, the organization now provides a myriad of services beyond peer counseling.
Yet it was Freeman’s involvement in the early stages of Center for Healthy Aging that paved the way for Wise and Healthy Aging to exist in its current format.
According to news reports, Freeman had passed away Jan. 14 in Los Angeles. She was 96.
Freeman served the local elderly population through the iterations of Wise and Healthy Aging between 1977 and 2005.
A licensed therapist, Freeman had gained the trust of senior citizens due to her late-age career shifts. Freeman had reportedly started college at age 55 and earned a doctorate in psychology.
She soon found herself here in Santa Monica working at what was previously known as the Center for Healthy Aging, where she remained on board until her retirement at 89. There, Freeman developed a peer-counseling program where volunteers aged 55 and older to counsel people struggling to deal with the aging process.
The program was essentially a support group supervised by licensed therapists and provided encouragement “for people 50 to 65 who have reached crossroads in their lives and are unsure which path to choose.”
Freeman had also reportedly developed a training manual in 1986 on how to help seniors face certain issues.
Shelia Segal, who spoke to The Mirror, said Freeman was instrumental in developing a program for the elderly to be served.
“She was really the founder of the peer-counseling concept. Evelyn was the main force … to be able to provide counseling services to elderly,” Segal said. “She was a great wit. She strongly believed what anyone’s age was everyone had the capacity to change. She was a dynamic woman.”
Freeman was born Evelyn Louise Withrow in 1916 just outside of Pittsburgh, Penn. She moved to Southern California during her toddler years.