VA Has Health and Fitness Programs for Older Veterans

Whether you are a fit, active senior Veteran, you need extra medical care, or you could use help with daily living, the VA offers services for you.

Health and fitness programs for older Veterans can help you live your senior years in the best shape you can be.

Gerofit

You can stay fit through the Gerofit program, an exercise program that helps older Veterans meet their fitness goals. Each participant receives a personalized exercise plan.

This plan may include both individual exercise suggestions and group fitness programs. The fitness regimen is supervised by a physical therapist, a nurse, or another medical professional.

Individual exercises in the Gerofit program often include the use of fitness equipment. You may be encouraged to try treadmills, stair climbers, or elliptical machines. These will improve your cardiovascular health. You may also start using weights to help you build strength.

Group fitness is a fun, interactive part of Gerofit. Participants do exercises that help them improve their balance, coordination, and strength. Tai Chi, a gentle, low-impact exercise that helps reduce stress, is a popular option for Gerofit participants.

For those who want to move their feet, line dancing sessions give Veterans the opportunity to kick up their heels together and dance their way to fitness.

Veteran-Directed Care

The VA offers a number of health care options for veterans who need home- or community-based care for skilled services, daily living assistance, or case management. Through Veteran-Directed Care, Veterans or their family caregivers can select the services that best meet their needs and fall within their assigned budget.

They can choose from the various home- and community-based services that the VA offers, including Home Health Aide Care, Hospice Care, and Telehealth Care. They can hire their own aides, who can even be family members.

If Veteran-Directed Care seems right for you, a VA social worker can help you get started. You may be asked to complete a worksheet that will help identify your care needs.

Adult Day Health Care

Senior Veterans who qualify for the VA's home- and community-based services may be eligible to participate in the fun, social setting of Adult Health Day Care.

Participants engage in a variety of activities during their time at Adult Health Day Care. These can include group exercises, music, outings, and thinking games. A meal may also be served.

Not only does Adult Day Health Care offer seniors a social setting where Veterans can get to know other Veterans and participate in stimulating activities, but the program also provides respite for a senior's regular caregivers.

Care providers will have peace of mind knowing that their Veterans are spending the day in a safe, attentive, and engaging setting.

Adult Day Health Care is operated as a half- or full-day program. Participants typically attend a few days a week, but some programs offer five-day options. Transportation is sometimes provided by the VA.

MOVE!

If your weight has been creeping up there, the VA can help. Their MOVE! program is designed to help Veterans manage their weight. One of the best ways to participate in MOVE! is through group sessions.

These are a fun, social way to learn about living a healthy lifestyle. Group session participants may engage with a clinician in-person or through video conferencing.

Those who would prefer individual coaching can use one of the other MOVE! options. With Telephone Lifestyle Coaching, a weight management coach provides over-the-phone guidance to the Veteran. TeleMOVE! provides regular check-ins to people who need frequent contact to keep them on track.

Those Veterans who like to use smartphone technology will enjoy the MOVE! Coach app for iOS to help with their weight-loss process. In fact, this app is available even to those who aren't Veterans, so you can share it with your friends and encourage them to lose weight alongside you.

To enroll in a MOVE! program, talk to your primary care provider. You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to get started.

Home Telehealth

Veterans who need help monitoring various aspects of their health might be able to receive that help right in the comfort of their own home through the Home Telehealth program.

The health care supervisor and the Veteran communicate through special monitoring equipment, video systems, and telephone lines. If the coordinator detects an issue with any of the levels that are being monitored, he or she can contact the Veteran's health care provider to discuss options.

You may have one or more medical concerns that can be monitored through Home Telehealth. The services that you need will be determined based on your health history. Some common Telehealth monitoring services include blood sugar level, pulse, blood oxygen level, and weight.

Telehealth can also keep your health care providers apprised of your heart sounds, lung sounds, and blood pressure.

Residential Care

Sometimes Veterans need to move into a facility where they can receive regular care and help with daily tasks. The VA runs Community Living Centers where Veterans can receive short- or long-term care.

These centers used to be called VA Nursing Homes, but the updated name reflects the VA's commitment to providing as comfortable and home-like a setting as possible.

Community Living Centers help their residents in many ways. They have social activities to keep seniors moving, engaged, and occupied. They offer gathering areas where residents can visit with family and friends.

Caregivers are available to help residents take care of their daily needs, such as bathing, feeding, and dressing, as necessary. Skilled nursing staff meets many of the residents' medical needs on-site.

There are 132 VA Community Living Centers in the United States, and many of these offer specialized services in addition to these basic ones. The care provided at a Community Living Center can help elderly Veterans live their later years in the best shape possible.

Veterans for whom a Community Living Center is not the best option may benefit from community services, such as assisted living centers, medical foster homes, or adult family homes. Although these care centers are not operated by the VA, your VA social worker can help you decide whether one of these facilities is the right choice for you.

The Takeaway

After your years of service to your country, the VA is now here to serve you. Health and fitness programs from the VA are available to help during all stages of your senior years.