Tireless dementia advocate and oldest uni student awarded OAM
Val Fell, an active ambassador for the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), Dementia Australia and the Council on the Ageing (COTA), has been awarded the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
A tireless campaigner for the rights of older people, Fell joined OPAN’s National Older Persons Reference Group (NOPRG) in 2020.
“Val has been an exceptionally strong voice for aged care reform and for older people who aren’t online,” said OPAN CEO Craig Gear.
“I simply cannot overstate her contribution in this space.”
In January, Fell was appointed to the Aged Care Council of Elders.
In her ‘spare time’, Fell is studying for a Bachelor of Dementia Care at the University of Tasmania to enable her to provide the latest evidence and research on care to her support group. At 93, she is the oldest person at university in Australia.
“Val’s commitment to aging well and refusing to accept what she has jokingly described as her ‘use-by date’ has been an inspiration to me and countless others,” Gear said.
“Val’s passion for improving people’s lives is a constant reminder that you’re never too old or too young to make a difference.”
Fell said, “this is extra special for me getting a Queen’s Birthday Honour in the year of the Platinum Jubilee. I was there on the embankment to watch her coronation in 1953 so it’s a bit full circle.”
Fell is currently participating in the CogSCAN project at UNSW, comparing the performance of four prominent cognitive assessment tools. She is also working on a project with NeurRA on hearing and dementia.
“Research is necessary to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers,” she said.
Fell formed the inaugural Illawarra Dementia Forum and a local Dementia Carers Support Group — both of which are still in operation — in 2010 when her husband, Ian, moved into residential aged care.
She continues as the organiser of the annual Illawarra Dementia Forum in Wollongong, providing a program of highly regarded research, lived experience and provision of best practices in dementia care for the Illawarra and beyond.
Fell has also been active in supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to older Australians.
For information or support regarding aged care, please call the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or visit opan.org.au.
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