SCARBOROUGH — The Southern Maine Agency on Aging on Saturday will honor participants in a year-old pilot program that pairs older or disabled veterans with trained younger veteran volunteers.
“The goal is to ease the isolation of aging and disabled vets,” said Susan Gold, SMAA coordinator of volunteers and the Vet to Vet project.
A service like this is especially necessary in Maine, Gold said.
“Maine has one of the highest percentages of vets in the nations and it’s the oldest state,” she said. “We felt that it was something that was really needed for veterans.”
SMAA had 31 veteran volunteers this year. All of them attended a three-day, nine-hour training in order to participate. They were paired with 31 aging, isolated or disabled veterans in Cumberland and York counties, some of whom were older than 90 and veterans of World War II.
The volunteers are also trained in how to refer clients for additional services at SMAA, or at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Volunteers, whose ages range from 20s to 80s, visit clients at least twice a month. Some, Gold said, visit their clients every week.
Volunteers will take clients out for coffee, lunch, go on walks, visit places like the Maine Military Museum in South Portland, or simply sit and talk, she said.
“What they do together is up to them, and they’re so creative,” she said “It’s an honor to serve these people who have served us. There is such a need out there, and there are so many who could really use a visitor.”
Gold said the intent is to continue building the program, and to reach out to younger veterans through the University of Southern Maine.
“We are working on getting federal and private funding so we can extend the program on an ongoing basis,” she said.
On Saturday, Peter Ogden, director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, will present the volunteers with certificates of service. The ceremony will run from 10 a.m.-noon at the Maine Military Museum, 50 Peary Terrace in South Portland.