What Successful Aging Means to Alaska Natives: Exploring the Reciprocal Relationship between the Health and Well-being of Alaska Native Elders

By Jordan Lewis.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As rural and urban communities in Alaska face an increasing elderly population, it will be important to understand the experiences of Alaska Native (AN) Elders and explore the reciprocal relationship between Elders and communities and the impact each has on health and well-being. This article highlights the role of the community in AN Elders' definitions of successful aging, and explores how AN Elders contribute to the health and resilience of rural communities. This study utilized grounded theory with a convenience sample of 26 Elders in five villages in Southwest Alaska that were selected by their respective tribal councils. The findings highlight the importance of family and community support, which contributes to their optimistic attitude toward life. This support provides the Elders with a sense of purpose and having a role in their family and community, directly impacting their health and wellbeing and enabling them to remain active in their homes and communities.

Keywords: Elders, Alaska Natives, Communities, Well-being, successful aging, community engagement, rural health, resilence

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.77-88. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 364.483KB).

Dr. Jordan Lewis

Senior Research Fellow Trainee, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Dr. Jordan Lewis is a Postdoctoral/Senior Research Fellow as part of an NIMH-funded postdoctoral training program at the University of Washington School of Medicine focused on behavioral health with underserved older adults. He will be focusing his research and training on exploring the lived experiences of Alaska Native Elders to develop mental health and substance abuse programs to assist Alaska Natives struggling with addiction. Jordan was a research associate with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology, where he was a co-principle investigator on an NSF grant exploring the Strengths, Roles, and Needs of Alaska Native grandparents raising grandchildren. Jordan received his doctoral degree in Cross-Cultural Community Psychology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), where he did his research with Alaska Native elders in Bristol Bay (SW) Alaska to establish an Alaska Native model of successful aging. His research interests include rural community mental health, Indigenous gerontology, and cross-cultural health and long-term care.