A Borders councillor has won a prestigious national award for her "tireless" work campaigning on behalf of older people.
Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, one of the first in Scotland to take on the role of Older People’s Champion, has won Age Scotland’s Jess Barrow Award for Influencing and Campaigning.
A former manager with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, Elaine has set up social centres to support older people throughout the Borders. After being elected to the council, she took on the role of Older People’s Champion and was determined to stand up for older people across the region.
Her achievements include persuading all members of the council to undertake Dementia Friendly training to better understand the needs of people living with dementia. A British Sign Language user, she campaigned to make sure this is used throughout the council to make it more inclusive for deaf people.
As Chair of her local Community Council in Newtown St Boswells, she led a group of volunteers to take over the local Community Wing. This has now been refurbished into a thriving community centre, which usually hosts older people’s groups, lunch clubs and youth activities.
She has also campaigned nationwide to encourage all Scottish local authorities to follow the Borders and elect Older People’s Champions to ensure they have a strong voice.
Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol said:
“When I took on this role, I never expected to win a national award. Being Older People’s Champion is amazing. I stand up in the Chamber and make sure everyone remembers our older people.
"I want to be the voice of the people who could be marginalised, who could be ignored. Our older people are the ones who’ve done it before us, they have the life skills and experience, and if they need help and support we owe it to them.
“When I was elected I set myself the challenge of having every member of the council trained as a Dementia Friend. If the elected members who are making policies and setting policies don’t understand, how they can make an informed decision?
"I never expected I would be nominated for an award, never mind win it, so this is an absolute honour and a privilege."
Diana Findlay, chairperson of the Borders Older People’s Forum, who nominated Elaine, said:
“I’m delighted as it highlights the role of Older People’s Champion. Elaine has been very active in all sorts of fields, very energetic, and stirs it on behalf of older people, which is what we need.”
Age Scotland's chief executive, Brian Sloan said:
“Elaine’s commitment, drive and energy continue to make the Borders a better place for older people. Whether it’s promoting dementia friendliness or helping start a thriving community centre, she works tirelessly to ensure no one is forgotten or excluded.
“As a pioneering Older People’s Champion, Elaine has also brought her campaigning to a national level, calling for all councils to have a dedicated voice for older people.
“It was clear from her nomination how much Elaine has touched the lives of thousands of people throughout the Borders. I’m delighted to present her with our Jess Barrow Award for Campaigning and Influencing in recognition of her inspirational work.”