After more than three decades of providing care for Wilmington’s elderly, it’s fitting that love is what’s taking Linda Pearce away from the adult daycare center she founded: Elderhaus.
After 32 years, Pearce is stepping down as CEO of Elderhaus Inc., which provides adult daycare services and all-inclusive care at its locations beside Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and on 17th Street in Wilmington.
In an interview with Port City Radio’s Aimee Bowen, Pearce said she is stepping down in part to get married—“for the first time,” she said, “at 67 years old.”
“And I needed to probably quit working and turn my attention to this next venture,” she said, “to see if it’s as successful as this last one was.
“A smart person knows when it’s time,” Pearce added, “and it’s definitely time for me. The programs have grown so much that it’s beyond my ability to keep up with them, actually, so I knew it was time.”
Under Pearce’s guidance, she said Elderhaus has grown from a two-person staff, open two times a week, to serving on average 150 people most days each week.
“So it’s really taken off,” she said, “and the PACE program is just really flying off the wall. It’s a great program.”
Short for Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, the PACE program at the 17th Street location provides access to physicians, physical therapists, nutritionists and other specialists to provide what Pearce described as “total care”—“Everything they need to keep them out of an institution prematurely,” she said.
“It’s really a nursing home without walls,” Pearce added. “It’s really ahead of its time.”
Looking back on her past three decades of service, Pearce acknowledged she has touched countless lives in Wilmington, though she gave the most credit to the Elderhaus staff.
“The staff is what’s really put it on,” Pearce said. “The staff is determined that these people are going to have some fun and have some quality of life.
“A lot of them were and are caregivers, and they know how important it is and how big a difference it makes to have somebody stimulated and with their peers, rather than sitting at home in a rocking chair,” she said. “So we do everything we can think of and bring in every kind of volunteer imaginable to make this program work.”
To send her off properly, members of the community are putting on a roast of Pearce tonight at the Burney Center at UNCW, where she’s served as a member of the board of trustees, last year as chair. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for Elderhaus, which Pearce said she is leaving with fond memories.
“I started Elderhaus because I was reared by an elderly grandmother. She took care of me when I needed her, and before it was all over, she needed me and I had to end up taking care of her as a teenager.
“I decided I wanted to help families who were trying to keep family members at home as long as they could,” she said. “I wanted to help caregivers, because it’s a tough job, and they need help.
“It’s been a fun trip,” she said. “I started it 32 years ago—I was about 34 and now I’m about 67—so it’s been a long ride, but it’s been wonderful to be able to provide care for the elderly in our community.”