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Tribute to Baroness Greengross by Baroness Altmann

Baroness Greengross | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

4 min read

Inspirational, popular and determined, with a passionate commitment to human rights and equality, Baroness Greengross helped redefine attitudes to ageing and demographic change

My wonderful friend, Baroness (Sally) Greengross passed away on 23 June. Parliament has lost an outstanding and popular lady, who was one of the most influential figures in redefining how societies respond to ageing and demographic change.

Sally’s passionate commitment to human rights and equality underpinned her legendary lifetime achievements and inspired those she met. She was able to win people over with powerful intellectual argument, hard work and determination. She will be hugely missed, leaving a giant hole in our lives.

Always kind, softly spoken and dedicated to many causes, Sally invariably had a smile on her face, even through her illnesses. I was honoured to have worked with her for so many years and feel fortunate to count her as a dear friend. Her company was a pleasure as well as enriching.

Born in 1935, she married her cherished late husband Alan in 1959 and they were devoted to each other for nearly six decades. We shared many happy times together and they were wonderful dinner guests. Sally and Alan had four children, who she once described as her best present ever. My heart goes out to her whole family and her many friends and colleagues.

When Sally was ennobled as one of the first “People’s Peers” in 2000, she was already a world-renowned expert in the field of healthy ageing and rights for older generations. Her work was recognised by the UN Committee on Ageing, and she received many awards and medals, including UK Woman of Europe in 1990.

Even in her final days, she kept campaigning

Sally achieved so much in her life, working with innumerable organisations and charities. Here is just a snapshot. She founded the International Longevity Centre – which she called “her baby” – and the charity Hourglass in 1993, which helps older people suffering abuse or neglect. Between 1987 and 2000, she was director-general of Age Concern England, taking it from a small organisation to Britain’s biggest charity for older people; and was a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission from 2006-12.

Sally was a powerful parliamentary advocate for older people’s right to equal opportunities, access to care, and for better understanding between the generations. Indeed she spoke in the Chamber just a few days ago, despite her illness. She chaired several APPGs dedicated to improving older people’s rights, protections, and lives and also the cross-party Intergenerational Fairness Forum.

Hugely popular, always working on a cross-party basis, nobody has a bad word to say about Sally. She was always ready to offer help and sage advice, brimming with ideas, constructive and upbeat, despite facing so many political barriers to change.

Sally was an incredible champion for older people. She was also a wonderful role model for the idea of fuller working lives, speaking passionately about the need for policies and planning for an ageing population. I remember her saying how fortunate she felt that she could still work as she got older and wished everyone could be in that position.

Even in her final days, she kept campaigning, writing to the Prime Minister: “I am coming to the end of my life… I beg of you to do the right thing by older people in this country,” – asking him to ensure desperately-needed funding for the Hourglass helpline to continue its vital work.

Her ideal was a society where generations live together with mutual respect and support, hoping for a future where people are just people and age is irrelevant.

We have lost an inspirational leader, with outstanding knowledge and highest integrity. Thanks to her immense charm, vision and practical ideas, many organisations have made huge strides in improving older people’s lives. We will miss her deeply. Her death is a devastating loss, but Sally leaves a powerful legacy.

Baroness Altmann is a Conservative peer

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