Evelyn Freeman, a pioneer in the field of aging who in the twilight of her life helped people cope with the challenges of getting older, has died. She was 96.

Freeman, who was the longtime director of the senior counseling program at what was then called the Center for Healthy Aging in Santa Monica, died Jan. 14 of old age at her Brentwood home, her close friend Antoinette O’Connor said.

Freeman was instrumental in adapting peer counseling techniques for seniors facing the difficult issues of aging, such as losing loved ones, isolation and stress from chronic pain. Inspired in part by her husband’s psychotherapy practice, she became a licensed therapist and trained other seniors to become counselors.

The program, which relies on volunteers 55 and older who are supervised by licensed psychotherapists, garnered worldwide acclaim from mental health professionals as a more cost-effective and personal way to comfort elderly people struggling with aging.

Sheila Segal, current director of the peer counseling program at the center, now called Wise & Healthy Aging, said Freeman spoke to her clients with a wit and grace that made them feel they were truly heard. “She could get her point across with such imagination and humor,” Segal said.

(Source – LA Times)