Donald Steele, who has died aged 76, was a leading campaigner for improvements in social policy for older people. From 1993 onwards, Don was director of social policy for the Association of Retired and People over 50 (ARP/O50), and, in 2007, became the leader and chairman of the Friendship Centre Federation. As a campaigner with both organisations, he was in demand by the media and appeared weekly on London's LBC radio offering advice to older people and commenting on politics.
He fought for improvements in services and led a successful campaign for free prescriptions for men from the age of 60. He also campaigned for nationwide travel concessions and constantly fought for improved state pensions and against age discrimination. Don negotiated numerous benefits and services for members of ARP/O50 and promoted its network of Friendship Centres. He also initiated the Lifespan Trust, a grant-making charity promoting research into the problems of ageing.
Born in east London, Don was evacuated to Cornwall during the second world war, where he met and was influenced by Isaac Foot, father of Michael. Later, while on national service, as an RAF bandsman, he played in the Coronation procession of 1953. On his discharge, he became an officer in the Salvation Army and led several corps, including at Coventry, where he was the first non-Anglican to preach at the new cathedral. He was the army's youngest ever major, and wrote regularly for its newspaper, War Cry.
Don went back to London in 1972, working with social and voluntary services while studying at Middlesex University for his MA in criminal deviancy. He campaigned through the 1980s on alcohol and heart health issues and became a magistrate, serving until he was 70.
Don always worked for the benefit of others and had a keen interest in politics - he once stood as a Labour candidate. He was devoted to his family and it was a great joy for him this year to travel to Italy for his daughter's wedding.
He loved his garden and walking in the countryside with his wife, Jean. He and Jean sang with the Hillingdon Choral Society and a blessing composed by John Rutter, which they sang with the choir, was played at his funeral.
Don campaigned to the end, seeking improved facilities in the hospital day-treatment unit he attended and less than a month before his death, announced the start of work on a new day-treatment unit. A close friend said: "One of my favourite words for him was flamboyant - he truly carried a flame. He put his beliefs into action to the betterment of us all."
Don is survived by his wife, Jean, and his children Graham and Mercedes.
Article from The Guardian