The Manchester VA is committed to ensuring veterans have the resources needed for optimal health.

As part of its work to provide an enhanced veteran experience and to modernize services, the Manchester VA has developed a recreational therapy (RT) program.

“This is another reason for veterans to take another look at their new Manchester VA,” said Alfred Montoya, director of the Manchester VA Medical Center. “Manchester VA’s recreational therapists help veterans to meet their goals and enjoy an improved quality of life. Veterans participate in recreation and leisure programs based on individual needs.”

The recreational therapists work with veterans toward physical, emotional, social and cognitive wellness. With a referral in place, each participating veteran receives an individualized assessment with goals that are developed based on their needs and interests.

“We work hard to ensure a specialized assessment for each veteran in our recreational therapy program,” said Matt Janson, veteran and VA recreational therapist.

“One veteran shared that he really enjoyed the snow and asked to build a snowman. Our team got the veteran outside and built a snowman with him. Veterans’ leisure interests vary from person to person, and giving each veteran individualized treatment means building a snowman with them, to introducing them to new leisure interests in the community like sled hockey, to educating them on how to overcome personal barriers that prevent them from interacting in the community and working on their therapeutic goals.”

Manchester VA recreational therapists can help veterans develop a routine around their free time that supports good mental health (working to reduce depression and anxiety), and helps them strengthen and support their body, building skills for coping with chronic medical issues.

Manchester VA recreational therapists “think outside the box to work towards optimal health and wellness of the veterans we serve,” said Valerie Carter, VA recreational therapist. “If there is something you used to enjoy that you are not currently able to do, we work to make it possible. ... It might just look a little different.”

As part of the recreational therapy program, veterans can work toward their goals through current programs, including bowling, sled hockey, horticulture, expressive arts and leisure education.

The program is gearing up to support skiing, community-based programs, a balance program, aqua yoga, and mindfulness over the winter months.

The RT program calendar is continually changing and being added to, in order to meet the needs of the participating veterans.

Veterans who feel RT might help them improve their quality of life can ask any medical or mental health provider for a referral.

Those with questions can contact Manchester VA Recreation Therapy at 800-892-8384, ext. 6267.

Veterans with other questions about medical care and other services at the Manchester VA can send their questions, which could be the basis for a future column, to Kristin.Pressly@va.gov. The veterans will remain anonymous.