In this special Belfast Telegraph feature, to support the Age NI and BBC NI 'Playing Our Part' Appeal, Eileen talks about her role as Chair, and shares the qualities and skills she believes are required from Board of Trustee members to ensure Age NI fulfils its vision of a world where everyone can love later life.
What does your role entail?
As Chair of the Age NI Board of Trustees, my role is primarily to lead the Board and ensure that the organisation's values and the voice of older people underpins the work we do and decisions we make in an informed and timely manner. Age NI exists to reduce poverty, provide high quality care to older people, and ensure older peoples voices are heard. We help older people who need us, work with organisations to increase awareness and support of later life issues and lobby those who can influence change. My role is also to ensure that the Trustees and Chief Executive are supported and nurtured in their role.
Is it 9-5?
Absolutely not! As Chair, I am available to the Board and Senior Management Team Monday – Sunday. I run my own business and have a number of other Board commitments which means I must manage my time really well, mindful that I have responsibilities for all my roles. I tend to start my day at 6.00am and will run through to 9.00pm in the evening. I made a commitment to Age NI and that commitment does not come with time boundaries. My rule of thumb is if you need me, phone me.
What qualities are required for your role?
We all come to the board table with an area of expertise, however underpinning that there are a set of qualities needed to deliver effectively. The key ones for a Board Chair are independent, objective, influencer, integrity, emotional intelligence, organised, decisive and being able to build solid relationships around the Board Table and between the Board and Senior Management Team.
What are the biggest rewards and challenges with your role?
It was an easy decision for me to make when I saw the advert in the paper seeking Trustees in 2009. When you can emotionally connect with the cause, the rewards are huge. I get a tremendous amount of self fulfilment knowing that in giving my skills and expertise I get to play my part in enabling everyone to love later life. In return I am inspired by the older people we serve - they remind me at every turn how what we do makes a difference.
Age NI Trustees are all volunteers. In recognising that, the challenge is ensuring that the Trustees feel valued and are able to see that their contribution has an impact. That is my job as Chair and I am very proud of what the Board of Age NI has achieved.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I had a kidney transplant in July this year. Thanks to my brother Sean I can continue to play my part for Age NI.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
Mum and Dad. They worked so hard to provide for us as a family. They instilled in each of us values and principles that we have carried throughout our lives. Mum will be two years gone this Christmas, and that was a defining moment in my life. I never realised just how little time we actually have together. Dad has managed since mum’s passing, and we are all so aware of the vulnerability that now exists. Mum and Dad’s journey in later life has fuelled my passion and personal commitment to Age NI.
Eileen is playing her part for Age NI. How will you?
- Help an older person you know
- Encourage someone you know who is concerned about health, money or care issues to call the Age NI Advice Service on 0808 808 7575
- Volunteer your time with Age NI
>> Visit Playing Our Part to find out more