For Karen Ivanka, Team Leader, Aged Care Navigators, there are three words that helps represent her 20 years at COTA Victoria, and that is connection, community and conversation.
During the two decades working at COTA Victoria, Karen has connected with thousands of older Victorians, exchanging ideas, creating networks and building community confidence.
‘Our small team at COTA Victoria, including our invaluable peer education volunteers, have done some amazing things when it comes to grass roots community connections. We pride ourselves in creating talks around important issues such as health and wellbeing, social isolation and education for older Victorians to have the opportunities to age well,’ Karen says.
‘I estimate, that since 2002, we have been involved in more than 2000 talks around the state, working alongside other passionate organisations and hundreds of generous volunteers who really want to make a difference to older Victorians.’
When asked, what Karen loves about COTA, the answer is simple.
‘I love working with such a close-knit group of people and working with the peer educators, who sacrifice their time to create a real impact in communities around Victoria. The diversity of the role keeps me on my toes, especially during COVID, when we had to change the way we connect with older Victorians. While it was a challenging time, it was pivotal that we maintained and nurtured those relationships so we continued to inform and engage,’ says Karen.
‘It is interesting that some time ago at COTA Victoria’s previous city premises, we discovered a COTA publication from the 1970s. In the publication, it discussed the hot topics of the time including social isolation, financial impacts as well as health and wellbeing. And nothing really has changed today. Those issues are just as relevant, so there is still so much work to be done.
‘I am passionate about dementia so keen to explore working in the communities around that. And it is also great to see the Seniors Festival back on as that is also a passion project for our team.
‘The last 20 years has been filled with challenges, optimism and satisfaction. And I am so proud of being able to work in an area which I love. Connecting with people from all walks of life has been such a humbling experience and I look forward to many more conversations with older Victorians so they can share their stories and concerns.’
From all at COTA Victoria, we congratulate Karen on her 20th anniversary!