SANTA MONICA — Evelyn Freeman, who pioneered peer counseling for the elderly to help them cope with the challenges of aging, has died. She was 96.

A friend, Antoinette O’Connor, tells the Los Angeles Times that Freeman died Jan. 14 at her Los Angeles home.

Freeman believed people are capable of change no matter their age. At 55 she started college, eventually earning a psychology doctorate.

A licensed therapist, she adapted peer counseling techniques to help seniors facing issues such as chronic pain and losing loved ones. Her training manual has been used around the world.

Freeman retired at 89 after directing the senior counseling program at the Center for Healthy Aging in Santa Monica, now called WISE & Healthy Aging.