Leeds woman 'overwhelmed' by MBE award for work with elderly in battle against loneliness

A Leeds woman who has been made an MBE for services to older people in the community, particularly during Covid-19 has been left 'overwhelmed' by the news.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Ailsa Rhodes, 47, has been the manager of Older People's Action in the Locality (OPAL) for 18 years.

Read More
M1 Wakefield crash: Man charged with seriously injuring three after driving the ...

She has spearheaded OPAL’s growth from a small office offering activities and advocacy services employing two members of staff, to a large multi-faceted support hub for older people, and the wider community.

Ailsa Rhodes, 47, has been the manager of Older People's Action in the Locality (OPAL) for 18 years. Picture: Simon Hulme.Ailsa Rhodes, 47, has been the manager of Older People's Action in the Locality (OPAL) for 18 years. Picture: Simon Hulme.
Ailsa Rhodes, 47, has been the manager of Older People's Action in the Locality (OPAL) for 18 years. Picture: Simon Hulme.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking to the YEP, Ailsa detailed how the award left her feeling 'overwhelmed' but proud.

"I was speechless originally, totally shocked. It came out of the blue and I think I was and still am a little overwhelmed," she said.

"It feels very surreal but I'm very happy and very proud."

Ailsa oversaw the the renovation of an old pub, into a community centre which now hosts a comprehensive health and wellbeing activity programme for older people.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, with many elderly members forced into isolation, Ailsa led OPAL's drive to offer support to elderly members including the creation of a leaflet with all the restrictions easily laid out.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"At the beginning of lockdown with so much of the information being digital we had members phoning asking what they could and couldn't do so with the help of Leeds city council we created an information leaflet which was delivered by an army of volunteers," she explained.

"We did food parcels, hot meal deliveries, prescription pick-ups, we had volunteers dog walking and transport to vaccines when the time came."

In 2016, Ailsa launched the SWIFt (Supported Wellbeing in Frailty) project which is aimed at reducing loneliness and isolation in the frailest older people within the local community.

This became even more crucial during the pandemic as OPAL set up a welfare check system and the opportunity for those isolating to have someone to talk too.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Throughout lockdown we did lots of welfare checks, conversations with people and just being there," Ailsa said.

"We had volunteers come forward to do phone befriending and at one point I think we had over 400 people matched up then when restrictions allowed we were doing door step and garden visits."

Ailsa's work has been recognised as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours list which has been released ahead of the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee.

Related topics: