Our Tribute to Edna

We received the very sad news last week that our Chair Edna Barker passed away on Monday 6th April 2020.

86-year-old Edna was a wonderful woman and a true friend to us all at Agewell. One of our founding members, she was actively involved with Agewell for over 20 years and remained as passionate as ever about improving services for older people and ensuring their voice is heard.

Everything she did for Agewell was done in an entirely voluntary capacity and we were so lucky to have her. She was involved in all aspects of our work. She was our first Older People’s Champion; she launched our successful Healthy Passport initiative; she was Chair of Wednesbury Forum and she set up and ran our popular Talking Threads knitting group.

She was involved with the police and local councillors and sat on many boards, including the Sandwell Dementia Action Alliance and the Palliative and End of Life Service, representing older people locally, regionally and nationally and never missed an opportunity to network and raise the profile of Agewell.

One of the highlights for Edna was being invited to Prague to give a presentation so that others could learn more about Agewell and what we do.

“When Agewell took the bold decision in 2012 to become a social enterprise in its own right, Edna was our rock,” explains Agewell’s CEO Deb Harrold. “Her unfailing optimism and sheer hard work kept me and the team going. We couldn’t have done it without her.” 

Perhaps her greatest achievement for Agewell came in 2015 when she set up  'Edna's Army' a band of Agewell staff and volunteers who visited older people in hospital, providing much needed company, as well as advocacy and support to enable continued independent living and reduce their chances of being re-admitted to hospital.

This pilot project was the forerunner to Agewell’s successful Sapphire Service which continues to be delivered today, working in partnership with the West Bromwich African Caribbean Resource Centre.

Edna loved volunteering. “I had to move forward and make a new life for myself after I was widowed in my sixties,” she would explain when asked. “I feel I’ve succeeded. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t enjoy it. Volunteering does me as much good as the people I’m helping.”

In 2012 Edna was presented with a certificate from the High Sheriff of the West Midlands for her valued contribution to the local community and in 2013 we were delighted when she was named a Diamond Champion by the Royal Voluntary Service.

Diamond Champions celebrate the work of older volunteers – the hidden gems in our communities – and Edna really was a gem for Agewell.

In November 2017 she suffered a stroke and although she fought hard to recover she was unable to continue living independently and moved into The Willows Nursing Home in Wednesbury.

Our thoughts are with her four children – Valerie, Janette, Carol and Kevin – her five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Edna was an inspiration to us all at Agewell and we will miss her dearly.