A program launched this summer links Franklin County veterans to the resources they need while also offering fellowship and supplementing daily care.
On July 18, National Church Residences, which is based in Upper Arlington, launched its On Point program at the organization's Center for Senior Health, 1700 E. Dublin-Granville Road in northeast Columbus.
More than 80 veterans are enrolled in the program, which is offered free to veterans ages 60 and older from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the center.
For veterans such as Harding Owens, who will turn 77 Oct. 23 and is visually impaired, On Point offers a wealth of benefits.
His wife of 54 years, Shryiell, is semiretired, but maintains a part-time job and takes him from the couple's home on the east side of Columbus to the program five days a week.
"I come because physically, I am not able to be home all day by myself because of my visual disabilities," Owens said. "This is a good place for me to come and give my wife some time that she can be alone. It's good for her, too."
Kyle Seymour is the On Point program director and a sales and marketing coordinator for NCR's day care centers. He said the help On Point gives veterans' caregivers is significant.
He said that if needed, NCR buses transport Franklin County veterans to and from the program for free.
The program offers a safe place for veterans to spend time away from home, Seymour said.
By comparison, he said, in-home care services typically cost more than $30 an hour.
"We get around 20 to 25 of them here a day," Seymour said. "As good as it is for these guys to get out of the house and have somebody to talk to, it's equally as good for their caregiver.
"A lot of these guys have wives that are highly functional. Some of them live with their kids that have jobs during the day. They wouldn't be able to go to the jobs or be able to get out of the house if they didn't have somewhere to take (their loved ones)."
Each weekday, veterans can lounge at the center and listen to music, watch television or select books from the center's library.
The On Point recreation room has a billiards table, and cornhole is a popular game on the patio. Bingo is played frequently, and there are Bible studies and exercise programs.
Veterans taking advantage of the NCR program also join those who seek services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in weekly field trips to go fishing at local parks or to go bowling, shopping or to lunch.
Owens favors sitting on the center's covered patio on nice days, as well as taking part in Bible studies and trivia games.
"I've enjoyed it tremendously," he said. "That sort of helps me to assimilate and remember things. It keeps my mind sharp and there are other games.
"The exercise program is very good. It helps keep your hand coordination, your feet coordination together."
Terry Spitznagel, NCR senior vice president, said On Point provides veterans with important resources they need to regain energy.
But she said socialization is equally important, and the program seeks to help veterans meet new friends and "improve their quality of life."
"Isolated veterans throughout Columbus need a place to go so they can connect with others in order to break from that cycle," Spitznagel said.
Owens, who received Army training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before being stationed in Berlin, Germany, from 1960 to 1963, said it doesn't matter when or where the veterans served because the service is their bond.
He said On Point participants share stories about their time in the military, as well as other aspects of their lives, and they treat each other with kindness and respect.
"It helps with my association," Owens said. "You're not by yourself. You develop camaraderie.
"We look out for each other. It does not matter what your condition is or where you are physically or mentally. We don't allow any of that to negatively impact us and we just support each other.
"The benefits of being here, to me, you can't measure it in terms of quality of life and helping me to develop rather than wasting away my time and my life."
Through its partnership with the VA, On Point links its enrollees to services and benefits they need, including on-site nurses and social workers.
Seymour said the program serves members of all six branches of the U.S. military, and at least one member is older than 100.
He said On Point seeks to enhance the quality of life for those who have served their country and deserve to be looked after and treated well.
"They were willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom," Seymour said. "So we try to treat them like rock stars."