For the last two decades, Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging has been serving senior adults in 13 Northeast Georgia counties, helping the aging population of the region with everything from wellness programs to employment training to Medicare counseling.
On Wednesday, agency employees and volunteers took their lunch hour to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Legacy Link, paying special tribute to founder and CEO Pat Freeman.
When Freeman started Legacy Link in July 1997, she had four employees - in July 2017, more than 100 employees are working across the 13 counties.
"It's a passion," Freeman said in an interview with AccessWDUN following the luncheon. "And our people really love each other. We work together."
The overarching goal of Legacy Link is to keep the aging population of the region in their own homes as long as possible. That goal is accomplished with a varied selection of programming, according to Freeman.
"We've seen such growth particularly in the case management of frail people that are at home - and we try to keep them at home instead of going into a nursing home," Freeman said. "And we have a wide variety of programs that we didn't have when we first started."
Even as Legacy Link works to keep seniors in their homes, they also advocate for seniors who do live in nursing care facilities. Ombudsman staff even work outside the region, serving 29 counties in Georgia.
Many seniors are grandparents who now have primary care-giving duties for their grandchildren. In the past year, Legacy Link counseled with grandparents raising 94 children whose parents were absent from the home.
Freeman said she doesn't anticipate the workload waning, and she said the region served by Legacy Link has one of the largest senior populations in the state.
"This is one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. Our 13 counties has the third largest population in Georgia. We used to be like the sixth or seventh...but now it's Atlanta first, the Rome/Cartersville area and then the Gainesville area," Freeman said.
She said she anticipates the growth will continue. Plus, she said there's concern over what might happen with Medicaid, and that will open up other counseling opportunities for seniors.
As for Freeman personally, she's not planning to retire anytime soon, even though she'll turn 78 on her next birthday.
"I have a little cut-out of a metal horse in my office that says 'When you get in the saddle, be ready for the ride.' I look at that real often."