Honoring Senior Veterans
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), senior veterans will account for 40% of the veteran population in the next 25 years.
As of 2016, an estimated 13 million vets are older than 55, which makes up over ⅔ of the total veteran population.
Baby Boomers are the largest group and primarily served in Vietnam. As this generation ages, the pool of senior veterans will continue to grow.
Today, take time to learn how to honor those who have served, both young and old.
When Veterans Day first began on November 11, 1919, it was called “Armistice Day” and marked the first anniversary of the end of WWI.
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make Veterans Day an annual observance, and in 1938, November 11th became the designated national holiday.
Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day honors all American veterans, both those who are living and those who have passed.
During this day, we recognize living veterans who served the country during war and peacetime.
United States Veteran Population Facts
- As of 2018, 18.2 million living veterans have served in at least one war.
- Women constitute 9% of veterans.
- 7 million vets served during the Vietnam War.
- 3 million veterans have served in the War on Terrorism.
- In 2018, 496,777 of 16 million Americans who served in WWII are still alive.
- As of 2018, Connecticut has the highest percentage of World War II veterans, 7.1%.
- In 2017, the states with the most veterans were Alaska, Maine, and Montana.
- 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
Challenges Facing Senior Veterans
Aging adults must contend with the problems that arise with growing older. But senior veterans often face additional struggles in several areas of life.
Pay attention to warning signs or anything else that indicates an elder requires extra support.
Concerns for Isolation
Senior social isolation is a severe issue for many older adults, and senior veterans are more at risk.
The life expectancy in the U.S. is increasing. Over the next two decades, the percentage of senior veterans 85 and older will double.
And although men between 55 and 80 are the most likely to be married, studies show that marriage rates decline after the age of 70 and single-person households increase.
That means more Baby Boomers are living alone and will need support from caregivers, family, and communities.
Impact of Disabilities
Disabilities can drastically impact an older adult’s quality of life. Limited mobility affects independence, self-esteem, and many other areas of life.
Many of those affected by disabilities live in rural areas or places with poor or inadequate public transportation.
Only about 15% of veterans have an injury related to their time in the service that qualifies for disability benefits.
More veterans than non-veterans are disabled, and senior veterans account for the majority.
Over 4.5 million disabled veterans are older than 55. Disability rates for both veterans and non-veterans will increase and meet around age 75.
Social security and Medicare have helped lower the poverty level for many senior veterans. This decline may explain why the gap between age and poverty is shown to decrease as people age.
Even so, many veterans with disabilities are still more likely to live in poverty.
Additionally, veterans are more likely than non-veterans to have a smaller yearly household income, with the exception being minority veterans.
Even with veteran benefits, a substantial number of seniors who have served live on fixed incomes.
However, it is still alarming to consider that so many live on less than $20,000 a year.
- 55-59: 14%
- 60-64: 15%
- 65-69: 11%
- 70-74: 12%
- 75-79: 13%
- 80-84: 14%
- 85+: 19%
As the senior population climbs, there is going to be a need for better housing, health services, and caregiver support.
The issues facing many of today’s senior vets will have a lasting impact not just on them but on the country as a whole. That is why these concerns must be addressed sooner rather than later.
Resources For Senior Veterans
The VA has many resources for older veterans to receive appropriate care.
Some senior veterans may be eligible for an additional monthly amount, even if they already receive a VA Pension benefit.
Aid and Attendance Benefit (A&A) is an increased monthly pension amount paid if the veteran meets one or more of the conditions below:
- Assistance with daily functions, such as bathing, eating, or dressing
- If they are bedridden or a patient in a nursing facility
- One or both eyes are limited to 5/200 corrected visual acuity or less.
Of course, the amount offered by this program varies depending on the individual’s financial situation and needs.
However, this program can provide $2,170 or more, which eases the cost of assisted living, caregiving, or other types of senior care.
It is available to both veterans who qualify as well as surviving spouses 65 or older.
- Medical documentation stating the need for daily aid
- Monthly income or assets that fall under the amount by the VA
- An honorable discharge
- Wartime service
Homebound is an expanded monthly pension amount paid to those mainly confined at home.
You can learn more about both of these benefits on the A&A and Homebound page.
Geriatrics is health care for senior veterans who have complex needs. For extended or long-term care, there are programs for any age in need of routine assistance.
Look for these programs at home, in VA medical centers, or your community.
- Geriatrics Program
- Long Term Care
- Eligibility for Long Term Care
- Home Based and Community Services
- Nursing Home and Residential Care
- Geriatrics Research
This information from the VA can help walk you through the process of applying for benefits or programs.
- Apply online using eBenefits
- Work with an accredited representative or agent
- Find the VA regional office and ask for assistance from a VA employee. Find your local office on the VA Facility Locator page.
Honoring Senior Veterans
In addition to the usual Veterans Day parades and poppy-wearing, there are many ways to show your support. Here are just a few:
Remember, not all who have served feel a need to talk about it. If a veteran doesn’t want to share their thoughts, don’t push the issue.
Also, don’t place flags in the veterans’ yards without asking for permission. If you want to help someone, try not to do it in a way based on a premise.
Be aware of your actions. Although you mean well, could they be seen as interfering or judgemental?
And of course, don’t take it personally or become defensive if a veteran asks you to refrain from doing something.
Help Vets Tell Their Story
With their permission, of course.
What veterans tell is something that people can’t get from a textbook.
Sadly, many veterans have no one to listen to them. Some may feel like a burden or are afraid of offense. Or, they have no one to listen to them. Others may think that their stories aren’t worth telling.
The Veterans History Project wants to help veterans share their stories. Get started today and download the kit to record your loved one’s history.
Another option is StoryCorps. This organization has permanent and mobile booths in cities across the country.
Don’t Forget About Military Families
When reaching out to veterans, it’s crucial to remember their families as well. Upheaval is a part of life for military families, and they need support, too.
Of course, deployments and homecomings are an adjustment. Many veterans and their families encounter hurdles due to depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
So don’t forget to find ways to help support the families of servicemen and women. It can be as simple as offering to take the children to school, bringing a meal, or listening.
Visit Veterans Who Live Alone
If you know a senior veteran who lives alone or in a senior care community, take time to visit not just on Veterans Day, but any day of the year.
Even if you don’t know someone who previously served, you can contact your local VA and learn about outreach programs in your area.
One or two hours makes all the difference for those living alone. It is also a good way to remind them that they and their sacrifices matter.
Another way that you can directly help veterans is through volunteer work. There are numerous veteran organizations, and the VA has a list of available options, so contact them to learn more.
Choose something as short as a one-day project or find something long-term. Your time is your most valuable asset, so it’s one of the best ways to show that you care.
Today, take a moment to give to someone who needs it. If you realize your parent or loved one needs additional help around the home, it may be time to hire a caregiver.
An in-home care worker can help with a variety of needs, from routine care to transportation. The right care can go a long way to improve the quality of life for both you and your parents.
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Also, be sure to check the blog for resources and tips for happy, healthy senior living.