Letter to the Editor
To the Editor
I am writing to voice my appreciation of the article “Enhancing Resilience to Tame Stress in Older Adults” by Susan Chapman, MA, MFA, C-IAYT, and to provide an additional viewpoint.1 Ms Chapman discussed the negative impact that social isolation, retirement, loss of meaningful relationships, and the resulting loneliness have on the mental health of older adults while highlighting the importance of increasing resiliency. To add to the discussion, I would also like to lend an additional viewpoint on the unique mental health needs of Vietnam veterans as they reach older adulthood. These veterans’ mental well-being was significantly influenced by the confluence of several factors, including the culture of the United States in the ’60s and ’70s, the political climate at that time, and their experiences on the battlefield.
Due to the nature of military activity in a conflict without a defined front line and rampant antiwar sentiment in the United States, these veterans were particularly vulnerable to threats to their psychological and general well-being.2 Vietnam veterans, on average, are now in their mid to late 70s and endorse feeling alone, alienated from society, fearful of rejection, and betrayed by their country.3 Increased severity of PTSD symptoms in later adulthood has been observed concurrently with other age-related pressures, including retirement, illnesses, and the death of close relatives and friends.2
There has been a desire to investigate how sociocultural factors can aid or impede Vietnam veterans coping with PTSD as they face the challenges of later adulthood. To echo the words of Ms Chapman, it is necessary to monitor the changing medical and psychological requirements of older adults as they age to decrease overall levels of distress and increase their sense of well-being.
Emily Winter, LCSW, CADC, doctoral student, University of Kentucky College of Social Work, Master of Science in Social Administration, Case Western Reserve University
2. Marini CM, Fiori KL, Wilmoth JM, Pless Kaiser A, Martire LM. Psychological adjustment of aging Vietnam veterans: the role of social network ties in reengaging with wartime memories. Gerontology. 2020;66(2):138-148.
3. Desai MU, Pavlo AJ, Davidson L, Harpaz-Rotem I, Rosenheck R. I want to come home: Vietnam-era veterans’ presenting for mental health care, roughly 40 years after Vietnam. Psychiatr Q. 2016;87(2):229-239.