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Aging with Purpose: A 35-Year View

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Winston-Salem is a mecca for seniors of all stripes. It’s where Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty, Governor Beverly Perdue, and other celebrities have delivered Meals-on-Wheels to the homebound. It’s where Mayor Allen Joines keeps up with senior matters in a monthly meeting with seniors, and Shepherd’s Center and Senior Games are thriving institutions.

Senior Services - Logo
Richard GottliebRichard Gottlieb

Senior Services, Inc., and its president and CEO, Richard Gottlieb, are responsible for many of the services and much of the recognition and respect accorded the city’s senior population. The announcement of Gottlieb’s retirement after 35 years at the helm of the nationally renowned nonprofit organization is a good time to reflect on some of the things that make Winston-Salem a great place to grow old.

Senior Services - Building
The Senior Services Center on Shorefair Drive opened in February of 2006,
funded by the “Compassionate Steps” capital campaign.
A second entrance serves as distribution site for Meals-on-Wheels.

It was a summer job that stirred Gottlieb’s interest in working in the nonprofit sector. As a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, “My first job was working with 10 year-olds in the inner city of Hartford,” he says. “I fell in love with nonprofit work right from the start.”

Moving with his wife to Winston-Salem in 1981, Gottlieb became executive director at Senior Services, Inc. At the time not many people talked about aging or even knew what the word Alzheimer’s meant. Fewer still understood what an adult day care center was; assisted living wasn’t even a concept. Acknowledging the wide interest in “ageism” today, Gottlieb considers it one of the last areas of stereotypes and prejudice that society must come to grips with. “I always thought the projected growth in the older population was interesting; then one day I realized I was part of the age wave! The topic of aging had gradually moved from professional to very personal for me!”

The spectrum of aging was a new field 35 years ago. The name, based on the Greek geron “old man” and logia “study of”, was coined in 1903 by a Russian, Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov. As the life span of seniors in the United States continued to increase, growing old became a different phenomenon. Active, involved seniors refused to be consigned to oblivion. Retirees sought meaningful pursuits to fill their new situation. And Senior Services responded.

Meals on Wheels - Arnold Palmer
Golf Legend Arnold Palmer delivered the five millionth Meals-on-Wheels.

In 1962, it had launched Meals-on-Wheels, the oldest home delivery program in the southeast and the third oldest in the country. Through the decades, it added 38 additional services, ranging from adult day care to chore and home management, from computer training to financial management.

Elizabeth & Tab Williams Center
A day care center for people with dementia was just a dream until
Tab Williams joined the Senior Services board.
Today the Elizabeth and Tab Williams Center is an award-winning facility for people with dementia.

A day care center for people with dementia was just a dream until Tab Williams joined the Senior Services board. “In those days, not as much was known about Alzheimer’s disease and people didn’t talk about it freely. Tab and his wife Elizabeth made a generous lead gift in 1998 to our ‘Blueprint for Dignity’ campaign to build a day center for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.”

Last year Senior Services launched a new initiative, Aging with Purpose, and employed Lee Covington, experienced and dedicated to the nonprofit field, to direct it. “In August 2015, I hired Lee as CEO,” Gottlieb says. “When I announced my retirement last summer, the board interviewed and hired him as both president and CEO, effective January 31.”

Senior Services - Richard Gottlieb & Lee Covington
Richard Gottlieb hired Lee Covington as Senior Services’ CEO in August 2015 to roll out the agency’s new Aging with Purpose initiative. When Gottlieb announced his retirement, the board of directors expanded Covington’s responsibilities to the presidency as well, effective January 31, the date of Gottlieb’s official retirement.

Senior Services, working cooperatively with other organizations in the county, serves as a clearing house of information for senior resources. It publishes a monthly calendar of events while promoting county-wide senior programs on www.seniorservicesinc.org.

Lee CovingtonLee Covington

Gottlieb’s personal understanding of aging has changed since he joined the ranks of seniors.
“I think it is very important to view the aging process as one of continuous growth. Too often we view aging in terms of decline only. Our youth-oriented culture promotes this. Everyone can contribute, grow and connect to others regardless of age or physical condition,” Gottlieb says. He then adds “Aging with purpose, with friends, with emotional connections, and with meaning is what we should strive for and look for in others as well.”

Senior Services - Meals-on-Wheels Art Show & Sale
The 7th annual Art Show and Sale, a major fundraiser for Meals-on-Wheels,
will be held March 4 this year.


Senior Services’ Funding Base
40 percent from local, state, and federal funding; 60 percent from non-governmental sources: community donations, private foundations, special fundraising appeals, etc. As Gottlieb concludes, “Community support is vital and has been generous to this important and growing cause. We will need continued support in order to keep up with the growing needs and opportunities in the future!”


Honors and Awards

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have received a score of awards and recognitions for its Senior Services programs, most recently the 2016 Leadership Excellence Award from the North Carolina Association on Aging. Other honors include awards from the Forsyth Humane Society, the Winston-Salem Chronicle, the NC New Organizational Vision: Williams Day Center (Best in U.S. – National Adult Day Services Association), Joel Weston Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management (three times), Excellence Activity – Elizabeth & Tab Williams Day Center, NC Adult Day Care Association (six times), the George L. Maddox Award for “Excellence in Creative Programs for Older Adults”, and the Dennis G. Hatchell Community Leadership Award.