This autumn Steve Henderson joined Age Scotland as dedicated Community Development Officer for the charity’s new Veterans’ Project with a peripatetic remit spanning the north of Scotland. We asked Steve, a veteran himself, about his background and aspirations for the project.
Steve joined the Army (Royal Regiment of Artillery) in 1983, with which he served as both soldier and officer until 2006. He then moved with his family to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates where he worked on a ten-year military training management implementation programme. After returning to UK early 2015, he eventually settled back home in Scotland and his career took a new direction with Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) Helmsdale.
The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project attracted him because “following a successful military career I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to a community of veterans who have served before me.” The need he anticipates among older members of the veterans’ community include loneliness and isolation. “This is an issue in general, but it can be exacerbated by being a veteran,” he says. “Veterans tend to speak a different language; they have their own ‘craic.’ There are some things they won’t feel comfortable speaking about in a civilian environment, but will talk to other veterans about.
“There can also be a culture of self-reliance that means you don’t go to the doctor unless your arm is falling off. Some veterans will only ask for help when they’ve reached crisis point.”
Sensory impairment is another problem. “Ear protection for the military didn’t come in until late 1990s,” says Steve. His own hearing has been affected by proximity to rocket launches.
Perhaps the biggest issue however is that many people who are entitled to additional help and support inadvertently miss out. “Lots of individuals don’t class themselves as a veteran, particularly those who did national service. We want to make sure that older veterans can benefit from all the help and support available via Age Scotland and from our Unforgotten Forces partner organisations.
Steve has been delighted with the response so far to the project at recent Age Scotland network meetings and in meetings with individual groups. “People think it is money well spent: not least the fact that Aged Veterans’ Fund funding comes ultimately from LIBOR banking fines.” Steve’s next steps are to engage with more groups, both among Age Scotland’s membership and within the veterans’ community. “One of the things I’m keen to do is introduce these groups to each other, so that more veterans can benefit from all that’s on offer from the charity’s members,” says Steve. “I will also be available to enable people to access the information and advice they need, and to deliver training where applicable.”
If you are part of a community group in the North or North East of Scotland and would like to make contact with Steve, you can call him on 07808 024801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans