On November 11th, we recognize Veteran’s Day, which allows us to honor and remember all U.S. veterans and victims of all wars. There are 18 million veterans in the United States, which is nearly 7.1% of the adult population. As we honor those who have made sacrifices for our country, we also have the opportunity to support those who have served on our behalf. Volunteering can be a wonderful way to give back to our community, while also working to enhance the lives of veterans in our country. While volunteering helps those in need, it also has many health benefits. So, as you look for ways to support our veterans, you might consider signing up to volunteer, which might help you take care of yourself and those around you.
While most volunteers have the intention of helping others, many don’t know that volunteering can also improve your health. Volunteering can offer many health benefits, especially for older adults.
While depression is not a normal part of aging, older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing depression-related symptoms. Volunteering has been shown to lower rates of depression especially for those over the age of 65. Those who volunteer are more exposed to opportunities for social interaction and the opportunity to build relationships with those who have common interests.
As many older adults retire from their jobs, it can be difficult to feel a sense of purpose in life. However, many older adults find purpose in volunteering. Whether it’s providing meals, transportation or just being present—volunteers do important work and make a difference in people’s lives.
It’s extremely important to keep our brains and bodies active and alert as we age. Volunteering provides a great opportunity to do both. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, volunteers report better physical health when compared to non-volunteers.
Working with those who have common interests can help build a support system and develop meaningful friendships, which can help us cope in times of stress and difficulty. Performing acts of service can also reduce stress.
It might be a surprise, but volunteering can help you live longer. According to the Longitudinal Study of Aging, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when age, gender, and physical health were considered factors.
Whether you’re planning to attend a memorial service, or are looking for ways to honor our veterans, there are many ways to show your support and gratitude. It might feel like you need special skills or training to work with veterans, however, there are many ways you can serve veterans with the skills you have already. While veterans have many different needs, here are some of the most common obstacles presented to veterans according to Student Training & Education in Public Service:
• Homelessness. Homelessness is rampant among the veteran community. In fact, According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 37,900 veterans were homeless in 2018, accounting for 9% of all homeless adults in the United States. Did you know that almost 38% of homeless veterans sleep in places that are deemed inhabitable?
• PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon for veterans who served in warzones. When left untreated, PTSD can cause chronic pain, autoimmune disease, and depression. Nearly 20% of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and nearly 20% of veterans who are diagnosed with depression or PTSD also suffer from traumatic brain injuries.
• Substance abuse. According to the National Center for PTSD, one in five veterans with PTSD have substance abuse disorders.
• Service-connected disabilities. Many veterans leave the service with injuries and illnesses connected to their time with the military. These veterans often need help with medical care, completing basic daily tasks, and providing for their loved ones.
Many organizations that serve the veteran community rely on the support of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering to support veterans in your area, here are some of the tasks you can expect to be doing during your time:
• Manage day-to-day tasks for veterans including help with preparing meals, job searching, medication management, finding housing, and managing finances. Some of these tasks require specialized skills, however, there is usually a job for everyone.
• Many veterans require support services, especially those who are sick or injured. However, many older veterans require socialization. Volunteers are often needed to spend time with older veterans to provide comfort during end-of-life care.
• Veterans who are transitioning from the military back to civilian life often need the assistance of a volunteer. Daily tasks like grocery shopping or filling a medication can seem challenging for those who are still adjusting.
While in-person volunteer opportunities are limited due to the Coronavirus, it’s still possible to support veterans virtually. Depending on your interest and availability, there are so many opportunities to choose from. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Adopt a Military Family
Soldier’s Angels’ “Adopt a Family ” program provides holiday support to immediate family members of deployed or injured service members and veterans. Many military families live on a tight budget, which can make the holidays stressful. This opportunity allows volunteers to donate items to make the holidays a little more special. This is a time-sensitive opportunity ending on December 7th.
Angel Bakers Team
Volunteers with Angel Bakers send one-time care packages to deployed military soldiers.
While the team sends care packages to all deployed soldiers, they specifically focus on those who are enduring difficult times during their deployment.
This team provides virtual baby showers for expectant families of the military community. Volunteers will shop for baby items and even add their personal touch by sewing or crafting items such as baby blankets and booties.
Do you like arts and crafts? This team dedicates its time to supporting service members, veterans, and their families with customized celebratory cards and notes. From birthdays and anniversaries to welcome home and get-well cards, this team lets service members know they are cared for and thought of often.
At Maplewood Senior Living, we are proud to provide care and support for many veterans throughout our communities. Today, we honor their sacrifice and dedication to our safety and freedom. Thank you to all of our veterans!
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