INNISFAIL – The Town of Innisfail has bolstered its family community support services office with an experienced social worker whose mandate will include jump starting the age friendly initiative that began almost five years ago.
Sandy Wacker, 44, is the town’s new community supports and age-friendly facilitator. She started with the town on Nov. 9, following changes to local FCSS services and programming as a result of COVID-19. Those changes forced the town re-evaluate its program and service delivery. That led to a decision to hire a new full-time staff member who will work on both FCSS supports and age friendly initiatives.
Wacker, a registered social worker, grew up in Innisfail and lived in the community until the age of 20. She left to pursue her career for 20 years, living and working in Red Deer, Calgary and the Airdrie area.
Wacker returned to Innisfail four years ago to help care and support her elderly parents and in-laws.
Professionally, her past work includes more than eight years with adults with disabilities. Wacker also did work with high-risk youth in Calgary, as well as facilitating employability skills for youth.
“Having that local knowledge as well is really helpful. I think with all the experience in different areas she has will be a real benefit to us,” said Karen Bradbury, the town's community and social development coordinator.
“It is really exciting that we are at the place now that we can move forward with the age-friendly initiative.”
Bradbury noted the town completed its Seniors Community Needs Assessment (SCNA) process in 2016. From there, the Age Friendly Action Plan Steering Committee was formed.
The committee looked at the SCNA and made several recommendations to council on Oct. 15, 2019.
She said Wacker’s task will be to create an Age Friendly Coalition that will review recommendations from the past process. The goal is to build a community action plan.
Bradbury said the coalition will decide what initiatives to target this year, and also create a plan for the next two to three years.
“It has taken a little bit of time, and COVID put a little bit of a wrench into that but it’s good to see we are in a position to move forward,” said Bradbury.
Wacker arrived at a time when the town’s much publicized and heralded Dementia Friendly Initiative was making an enormous impact in the community, as well as attracting positive notice across the province, nationally and even internationally.
The initiative is continuing until at least the end of March.
“I think it is really great we are getting the knowledge out to the community,” she said. “Communities in general lack the knowledge and know-how of how to support individuals, so I think this is a great initiative in moving that forward and being inclusive.”
Wacker’s role will also include building and promoting volunteerism in the community, creating progressive mental health initiatives, connecting citizens to resources and finding gaps in services and supports in the community.