Reflecting upon success helping veterans
Sometimes it's important to take a moment to reflect upon the success of a project. That was the thinking behind a recent Joining Forces event at Churchill War Rooms in London, when local partners from across England gathered to celebrate the ways the project continues to assist older veterans.
The event featured short speeches from Age UK's Chairman Sir Brian Pomeroy, SSAFA Controller Sir Andrew Gregory, and Melloney Poole, Chief Executive of The Armed Forces Covenant Trust.
Meanwhile, a presentation by Dr Zoe Anchors, a research associate at the University of Bath, summarised the findings of an evaluation of Joining Forces and the difference it's made to lives, featuring quotes from older veterans. The overall findings suggested significant positive effects on:
- mental wellbeing: "Now I can go out, I go out to a café downtown everyday nearly now. I go in there, I chat to all the staff… I have people that come in there that I know."
- quality of life: "I love our weekly meetings. We have grown to be a very close group and can talk to each other - you can’t talk to civvies like that - they don’t have the same understanding. [The meetings] get me up in the morning, otherwise I can be stuck at home."
The positive work done by Joining Forces was further illustrated by two videos shown at the event.
Arthur is part of the Joining Forces project at Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington. He appears in the video showcasing the information and advice that Joining Forces can offer.
"I felt as though I'd become redundant to civilisation," explains Arthur in the video. "I didn't know what the future held for me because the Army didn't tell you."
Arthur explains how he suddenly found himself in a difficult situation. "I got a bill through the door [for] two-and-a-half grand. We suddenly found ourselves in debt. In the Army you can turn to someone and ask them, but in civvy street it took me six months to talk to my next door neighbour."
Thankfully, Arthur's wife's involvement with Joining Forces has resulted in him receiving answers to the questions he had, meeting people with similar experiences to his own, and helpful modifications to his home. "[SSAFA] me with a walk-in shower, which I didn't have before.
"I know now that if I've got a problem, I've got someone I can talk to," says Arthur with a smile.
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William is known to his friends as Dick and is part of the Joining Forces project at Age UK Wirral and features in our other Joining Forces case study video, showcasing the project's focus on those dealing with loneliness.
"The great danger for ex-servicemen is loneliness, particularly if you lose your partner," explains Dick. "One of the biggest causes of feeling lonely was [losing my wife].
"You're then stuck betwen the same four walls... you don't respond because you're not in human company, which can lead to a spiral of depression if you're not prepared to get out and go out with people."
Dick continues: "Age UK provides you with a reason for getting out. [Have] a shave, a shower, a shampoo, clean your shoes and get dressed in your best casuals and get out."
So what does Dick enjoy about being able to socialise with a wider community? "You hear different points of view and different experiences, [which] arouses your curiosity again. You want to know about things, you're not just coasting along. You want to live."