A lady who devoted decades of her life helping others, or as she puts it, “being useful”, has retired at the age of 80.
Irene Atkinson, originally from Doncaster, moved to Scarborough with her husband Edwin in the 1960s.
For the first 20 years, the couple embarked on various business ventures, taking over the management of some of the town’s most famous institutions such as the Yardley Manor Hotel.
But when her husband became ill with Parkinson’s and her dad developed Alzheimer’s, Irene decided to channel her energy into caring for others.
She said: “I’ve been very lucky and I thought it was about time to start doing something for other people instead of me.
“With Edwin becoming very ill I got involved with the Parkinson’s group. Parkinson’s is a terrible, terrible disease. People think it’s tremors or stiffness, it’s not just that, it’s a million things.
“Me and my friend were running the carers’ group and the support group, she was vice chairman and I was chairman. We were trying to help and support people with Parkinson’s, their carers and their families.”
Alongside this, Irene started working in social services as a relief carer and in those years she also became a member of the Soroptimist club, a worldwide volunteer service aimed at improving the lives of women and girls.
In 2006, 13 years before retiring, Irene took up her latest project, helping the Plaxton Family Housing Trust provide affordable accommodation for the elderly.
“I was asked if I wanted to join the trust by Mr Mason,” Irene explained, “he was one of the founding members distributing funds from the estate of the Plaxton family.
“My job was to interview prospective candidates and decide if they met the criteria to become tenants.
“For me it was just another way of helping and being useful. That’s what I tell my kids, ‘be useful’. You’ve got to be useful in life.”
Looking back at her life, Irene says she just “went with the flow”.
“I enjoyed doing the Parkinson’s, I’m proud of Plaxton, it was very kind of them to include me, but at 80 you need to let younger people have a go. They’ve got more energy, more modern thoughts and that’s why I thought ‘now it’s time’.”