By Alicia Doyle, Ventura County Star

As the newly appointed president of Senior Concerns, Andrea Gallagher said her goal is to provide a positive aging experience for all of us.

“If we develop the right support system, the right services and the right environment for seniors to thrive, it makes growing older a great experience and reduces the burden on family caregivers,” said Gallagher, a certified senior adviser who lives in Westlake Village

Senior Concerns, based in Thousand Oaks, is a private nonprofit dedicated to serving all seniors, especially those who are frail and have special needs, as well as their caregivers and families.

The organization’s board of directors appointed Gallagher president, effective Feb. 25. The search for a new leader began more than a year ago when Carol Freeman, who served in the position for five years, announced her retirement.

As president, Gallagher will provide leadership for Senior Concerns’ programs, personnel, finances and fundraising efforts.

“My goal is for Senior Concerns to provide support, respite, care and education for seniors and caregivers in our community,” she said.

“Andrea truly believes in the mission of Senior Concerns to serve the needs of seniors and their families,” said Brenda Birdwell, who oversees advocacy and outreach at Senior Concerns. “She began her foray in the senior world with her elderly neighbors. She and her husband helped with trips to the doctor and ultimately, literally, adopted them, caring for both of them until they passed.”

Gallagher met Fred and Hildy in 2001 when she and her husband moved to Westlake Village.

“Putting myself in their shoes, I saw their need for support and care, and the relief they felt when they realized they could count on us to be there for them,” Gallagher said.

Hildy passed away at age 86, and Fred died a year later at age 83.

“After their passing, I was convinced that awareness and better planning could make inevitable life transitions much easier for individuals and their families,” Gallagher said.

Working for an organization that provides seniors a sense of safety and independence and a feeling of self-worth and belonging is important to Gallagher.

“It also honors my mom, who quit her job to care for me as a child when I had a long illness and is now full-time caregiver for my wheelchair-bound dad,” she said. “Putting myself in her shoes, I see the emotional, physical and financial burden that comes with caregiving, so working for an organization that provides support, respite, education and resources for family caregivers, allow me to honor her.”

Gallagher “has made a name for herself as a mover and shaker in the senior world and has taken it on herself to educate herself and others on senior matters,” Birdwell said.

For instance, Gallagher is the president of the Life Planning Network, a national organization concentrated on positive aging. She holds a certified senior adviser credential, which is an accredited credential to help people better understand the needs of seniors. She also has served on the housing team for the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging Senior Adult Master Plan.

“I am very excited to have Andrea as our new president. She brings passion and experience to the job,” said Lori Bliss, a care coordinator and senior advocate at Senior Concerns. Additionally, “she has an exuberance that will help us continue our mission to provide programs and services for aging seniors, families, caregivers and the community which support and improve the quality of life.”

Gallagher’s greatest qualities are her futuristic thinking and knowledge of seniors, said Freeman, who returned in November as interim co-president after her May retirement.

“She is quick to grasp an idea and even quicker creating them to address what an organization should be doing now to meet needs of seniors and how it should position itself a few years out,” Freeman said. “Her national affiliations and networks give her a perspective for solutions tried and proven elsewhere. Above these great skills is her absolute driving passion, compassion and caring for our senior community.”

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