My name is Steve Fleming, and I’m president and CEO of The Well•Spring Group, a multi-modal aging services provider based in Greensboro, N.C., Well•Spring serves more than 1,000 older adults, from those who are enjoying an active, independent lifestyle to those needing high-quality, community-based, long-term care.
I’m enjoying my 17th year at the helm of Well•Spring, and my 31st year serving older adults.
After graduating with a degree in Health Policy and Administration from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I entered the aging services arena as an assistant director at a faith-based Life Plan Community. Soon thereafter I enrolled in an evening MBA program and graduated two years later from Appalachian State University.
Throughout my career, I’ve been active on credentialing boards, in addition to the boards of our state and national professional association, LeadingAge. Last year my peers on the LeadingAge board elected me to become their chair in 2018. This is a humbling honor, one that carries with it a responsibility to convey a unified message from our provider members to the rest of the nation. The list of previous chairs and their accomplishments is impressive, including that of our current chair, Kathryn Roberts. Kathryn is a trusted friend and the great leader of the Ecumen organization, based in Minnesota.
I am often asked how did I choose to enter the field of aging services? After all these years, on reflection, I realize the answer is, “I didn’t choose it, it chose me!” Growing up in a small town in North Carolina at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I learned from my parents that respect and reverence for older adults were paramount. Even though he died when I was 7, my grandfather had a profound impact on me. He was a kind, gentle soul who practiced his faith, worked hard and revered his family. I would have loved to have had him in my life as I struggled with being a good husband and parent. Perhaps it was his early influence that led me to often visit with an older couple who lived in our neighborhood. I’d sit at their feet while they sat on their front porch, reminiscing about their life.
Or perhaps I was chosen when, in my collegiate years, I was pressed into service to help move my grandmother into a skilled nursing facility that, ironically, was one of the first LeadingAge members in North Carolina. Living only a few miles down the road from my grandmother and visiting at least weekly, I watched as the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and dementia began to take their toll on her ability to live independently. As a 21-year-old young man, the thoughts of her entering a skilled nursing facility were less than complimentary. However, witnessing a slight improvement in her condition, albeit brief, led me to the conclusion that I could see myself serving older adults one day. So, I like to say I was chosen for this line of work – and, luckily, it fits my skillsets to a tee.
I saved the best of me for last – my wife and family. I lucked out and married a beautiful, kind and patient woman in Anne Wilson. She’s been by my side for almost 30 years now and has complemented me at every turn. We are the proud parents of two daughters, Brooke, 24, and Elizabeth, 20. Brooke serves as a congressional aide, and Elizabeth attends Appalachian State University. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our family pet, a mixed-breed dog named Sadie.
Through this blog, I look forward to sharing my observations about the needs of older adults, how we in this business can best serve them and how our state and nation can work to ensure these needs are addressed. I hope you’ll follow along with me!