2011-03-24 / Health & Wellness

Well-known advocate for the elderly is leaving to enjoy her golden years

Leader of Senior Concerns will retire
By Michelle Knight


CONNECTING WITH RESIDENTS—Senior Concerns president Carol Freeman talks with resident Selma Feldman in the nonprofit’s community room on March 22. When she tires of answering e-mails or scheduling meetings in her office, Freeman pops around the corner to the community room and sits with the residents for a while, enjoying big band jazz or music from the ’40s and ’50s. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers CONNECTING WITH RESIDENTS—Senior Concerns president Carol Freeman talks with resident Selma Feldman in the nonprofit’s community room on March 22. When she tires of answering e-mails or scheduling meetings in her office, Freeman pops around the corner to the community room and sits with the residents for a while, enjoying big band jazz or music from the ’40s and ’50s. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Carol Freeman, the president of Senior Concerns who launched several new programs and steadied funding for the nonprofit, is retiring.

Freeman’s last day on the job is April 29.

“I will miss the people and not just the staff,” Freeman, 66, said last week. “There’s nothing more rewarding than the very immediate gratification you get” from the job.

“I’ll call it that sense of purpose,” she said.

As examples of the kinds of encounters that give meaning to her work she mentioned a family who came in to thank her and the staff members for caring for their loved one, and a day care participant with cognitive deficiencies who wandered into her office to talk.

“Daily it happens,” Freeman said.

So why is she retiring?

“ Work got in the way of travel,” said Freeman, who plans to visit her daughter and two granddaughters in Washington, D.C., more often.

Throughout her career, Freeman has taken jobs requiring more than the usual 40 hours a week. In retirement, she’s looking forward to having time to herself.

“I’m ready to be just as active but to do it for myself as opposed to others. That sounds a little selfish,” she said. “I have the opportunity to do it. I’m ready to try something else.”

Freeman rose through administrative ranks to become the chief executive of several hospitals, including USC Norris Cancer Hospital in 2000 and Thousand Oaks Surgical Hospital in 2003. Along the way she earned a master’s in business administration from Cal Lutheran University in 1987.

Freeman joined Senior Concerns in October 2006. It was a time when the social service organization needed stable funding, said Maureen Symonds, Senior Concerns’ director of programs.

Symonds said Freeman is so well-known and respected in Thousand Oaks that her reputation and community connections have helped the organization in its fundraising efforts.

“Carol has been like a light out there,” Symonds said. “We’re going to miss her, yeah, really going to miss her.”

Freeman’s leadership style was that of hands-on participation and collaboration, never assuming she knew it all, Symonds said.

“No matter what she was doing she could always engage (the clients) and roll up her sleeves . . . and pitch in with the staff,” Symonds said. “It didn’t matter what needed to be done, Carol would do it.”

Among her proudest accomplishments at Senior Concerns was maintaining the nonprofit’s financial footing despite the economic downturn. She’s also pleased that Senior Concerns is expanding programs into other cities, such as Simi Valley, and meeting the needs of the aging baby boomer generation with new programs.

Robert Shaw, chair of the Senior

Concerns board of directors, called Freeman a compassionate person dedicated to serving seniors and their families. She will be difficult to replace, he said.

“Personally, it’s been a true pleasure to work with someone of Carol’s abilities and character,” said Shaw, who’s know Freeman for 14 years.

In regard to the next president, Shaw said, the board will seek someone who understands the social and health issues of seniors, who can manage Senior Concerns’ $1.8-million annual budget and who recognizes national issues in a local context in developing new programs and services.

“This is such a dynamic world now, organizations need to be progressive in their thinking,” Shaw said.

In retirement, Freeman plans to keep volunteering in the community. She’ll continue as a member of the Council on Aging and the Thousand Oaks Rotary Club. And she’ll spend more time at the hobby she shares with her husband of 45 years, Dave, a semiretired general contractor.

The Freemans, Thousand Oaks residents for 30 years, like to tour the state and the country in their restored vintage automobiles. Dave, president of a Conejo Valley vintage Ford club, owns a Model T Ford and three Model A Fords.

Carol likes to sport around in her 1960 Corvette.

They plan to drive Dave’s 1928 Model A Ford pickup to Michigan next year, despite a lack of model shock absorbers. And with both Freemans retired, the couple plans three weeks in Germany and Poland this fall.

What’s Freeman’s advice to the next Senior Concerns president?

Enjoy the job and keep the organization financially healthy, because without it, seniors and those who love them would be in desperate straits, she said.

“It’s too precious to let fail,” Freeman said of Senior Concerns. “There is nowhere else to turn for answers.”

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