A CHARITY champion responsible for getting thousands of older Somerset people exercising has died of cancer at the age of 50.

Dianne Ramsay, who worked for Age UK Somerset for nearly 20 years, was passionate about helping people in later life.

She transformed the Ageing Well service, which runs exercise sessions for the over 50s, from a few sessions run by volunteers to a popular service professionally managed by five staff, 23 instructors and 53 volunteers running a variety of classes.

It has had a huge impact and helped thousands of older people stay active, keep moving and also meet new people, make friends and have fun.

She borrowed a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln to sum up her approach to ageing - "In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years."

During her time with the charity she won many large contracts to expand the service, and her knowledge and expertise led to the charity working with Later Life Training and Manchester University on the Stay Strong Stay Steady project.

Di was instrumental in getting Age UK Somerset's Annual Tea Dance off the ground, persuading many people to donate prizes for raffles.

She travelled the county to give talks to local groups about the charity’s work and was involved with several fundraising events such as the charity’s ball, a pub quiz and dragon boat racing.

Age UK Somerset chief executive Phil Dolan said: "We are profoundly saddened at the death of our inspirational colleague Dianne Ramsay.

"Di had such a positive impact on the charity not only as a popular and a highly engaged member of staff, but also as the leader of the Ageing Well service.

"Her reach and reputation went far beyond that service alone to the point that whenever Age UK Somerset was mentioned nine times out of 10 people would say, 'Oh, I know Di Ramsay'.

"Her enthusiasm, boundless energy and infectious laugh drew people to her and made them want to be supportive and get involved with any project that she was part of.

"We will all miss Di greatly. Our charity will be a poorer place without her and we are determined to keep her legacy alive."