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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: The Aging Veteran | Table of Contents: Summer 2016 |

Noteworthy Publications

How older Veterans confront wartime memories


A telehealth version of the Savvy Caregiver Program proved effective in an Atlanta VA study involving 30 dementia caregivers. <em>(Photo: ©iStock/fzant)</em>
Chuck Gould, 95, who served as a Navy signalman in the South Pacific in World War II, meets with an active-duty Army soldier during a D-Day anniversary commemoration at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., in June 2016. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

Chuck Gould, 95, who served as a Navy signalman in the South Pacific in World War II, meets with an active-duty Army soldier during a D-Day anniversary commemoration at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., in June 2016. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

As they age, many combat Veterans confront and rework their wartime memories in an effort to find meaning and build coherence, according to a 2016 study, published in The Gerontologist, led by researchers with VA's National Center for PTSD.

The work was a follow-up to a 2006 study by the same team that hypothesized that aging-related challenges might lead to increased reminiscence and possibly psychological distress among Veterans who had previously dealt successfully with earlier traumatic events, such as those they experienced in combat.

Such challenges might include retirement; the death of family members and friends; and physical and cognitive decline.

In the newer study, the research team found that through reminiscence, life review, and wrestling with issues such as integrity versus despair, many Veterans intentionally re-engaged with experiences they avoided or managed successfully earlier in their lives. These reflections led to more pain in some Veterans, and to new growth in others.

According to the researchers, while some Veterans are able to navigate this process alone or with their friends, others may benefit from support groups, which can promote posttraumatic growth and greater inner peace. This is true even if a half-century has passed since their combat experience.


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