Colette wants to make Luton the Eastbourne of Befordshire

Age Concern director Colette McKeaveney
Age Concern director Colette McKeaveney

She’s a pint-size package of pure dynamite.

Age Concern Luton director Colette McKeaveney may be 5ft nothing in her stocking soles but there’s a pair of killer stilettos under the desk for when she wants to make an entrance and an impression.

The Belfast-born go-getter is the sort of person who believes there are no problems, only solutions.

And her positive attitude has transformed the charity into into an award-winning organisation with more than 360 volunteers and a staff of 60.

“We’re all very motivated,” she said. “We share the same values, we’re all prepared to go that extra mile.

“I’ve got great people around me, a terrific team. My volunteers are angels, the staff are awesome and we’ve got a wonderful band of trustees.”

Colette, 49, believes growing old is a privilege not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy.

“I’ve lost too many of my own family and friends at a young age,” she explained. “I want to make Luton the Eastbourne of Bedfordshire – a great place for senior citizens, even though many have retired on low pensions and are struggling.

“It’s a very transient community and there’s a problem with loneliness. One in three elderly people has no relatives living locally and is completely isolated.”
She added: “Ideally all old people should have a loving son or daughter nearby. But if they don’t, I want them to know they have us.”

Colette, who grew up in a large community-minded Irish family, has made a personal commitment to give her clients the help they need to enjoy the old age they deserve.

Age Concern Luton offers benefits advice and information, subsidised home help, a podiatry, hospital discharge and handyman services as well as a telephone befriending line to give extra support and keep people connected.

In addition there are lunch and social clubs and a team of voluntary drivers.

It also has charity shops in Birdsfoot Lane and Farley Hill.

Colette came to Luton in 1980 and began volunteering at the Vespa lunch club. “I thought I had all these talents,” she smiled. “And I ended up peeling potatoes. It was a real lesson in humility.

“But I started at the bottom and learned to relate to elderly people.”

When a programme of cuts was introduced in 1994, Colette and her colleagues looked at providing a service for senior citizens themselves.

“We started with a little shop in Manchester Street employing 12 home helps and we’ve never looked back,” she said.

Age Concern Luton celebrates its 20th anniversary this year - largely thanks to its inspiring director and her equally dedicated team.