Tireless campaigner for the rights of older people and, at 93, the oldest person studying at an Australian university, Val Fell has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Ms Fell is an active ambassador for Older Peoples Advocacy Network, Dementia Australia and the Council on the Ageing (COTA); she joined OPAN's National Older Persons Reference Group in 2020 and in January, she was appointed to the Aged Care Council of Elders.
"Val has been an exceptionally strong voice for aged care reform and for older people who aren't online," said OPAN chief executive Craig Gear.
"I simply cannot overstate her contribution in this space."
"Val's commitment to ageing well and refusing to accept what she has joking described as her 'use-by-date' has been an inspiration to me and countless others," Mr 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."
Ms Fell formed the inaugural Illawarra Dementia Forum and a local Dementia Carer's 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.
Ms Fell has also been active in supporting the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out to older Australians.
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."
Ms 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.
Ms Fell is studying 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.