by Peter Mangiola, RN~
A vast number of elderly veterans are going to spend this 4th of July in some form of assisted living community or alone at home (possibly with their home-care workers). But of all of the days when we celebrate what it is to be American, there are none that are quite as family (and community) friendly as Independence Day. This means that the 4th is one of the best opportunities for us to learn from those whom have put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.
Getting Involved in Independence Day
The 4th of July may be a family-oriented holiday, but there are almost always community events going on that day; events that a community organization, veteran’s group, or other association can help you get involved with. That is important for an elderly veteran. Being involved in your community helps you build ties, stay active, and keep your mind sharp, enabling you to remain more independent for a longer time.
Many community events celebrating the United States ask for veterans who are willing to show up in uniform, particularly those organized by churches, private schools, and veteran’s groups. Some might ask you to speak if you feel up to it; you may want to talk to your care provider and see if they are able to attend the event with you so they can make sure that you have everything you need to participate. Disabled or handicapped veterans are often particularly welcomed at these events.
Back On the March
Independence Day parades are excellent places for veterans who are able to walk for several blocks to make an appearance, walking side by side with fellow warriors in uniform. Or, in some cases, riding comfortably in the passenger seat of a flag-flying convertible or being pushed in a wheelchair by a spouse, child or caretaker. Few sights are as inspiring as seeing a group of proud soldiers and seeing firsthand just how many of your neighbors have fought to defend our country.
At Home with the Family
Though becoming involved with community events is great, another great place for a veteran to spend Independence Day is at home with the family, sharing. It is understandable that many veterans do not like to discuss their experiences during wartime, but if you are up for it, it is far better to talk openly about what you did (and why) than it is to let all of the wisdom and experience you’ve acquired vanish silently when you pass on. After all, if you do not share what you have learned, how will the next generation ever know?
Find a Record-Keeper
If your Independence Day comes and goes without having a chance to talk to the next generation about what it means to fight for something you truly believe in, don’t let that stop you. Almost every town has a community college or an amateur history museum; find those opportunities and share your story in as much detail as they will allow you. Even a local elementary school history teacher might be able to find a place for you in front of their students at least once a year. You may also visit the US Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs for interesting stories.
Don’t Just Do It for Them, Do It for You
Researchers have studied senior health (and veteran health) extensively, and one of their most interesting discoveries has to do with connections. The more actively an elderly veteran participates in their community, the more likely they are to enjoy their lives, live longer and suffer less. Getting involved this Independence Day (and throughout the year) is not just a chance to pass on your wisdom to the future; it is an opportunity to live happier and healthier as well.