There is very little research on Alaska Native (AN) elders and how they subjectively define a successful older age. The lack of a culturally-specific definition often results in the use of a generic definition that portrays Alaska Native elders as aging less successfully than their White counterparts. However, there is a very limited understanding of a diverse array of successful aging experiences across generations. This research explores the concept of successful aging from an Alaska Native perspective, or what it means to age well in Alaska Native communities. An adapted Explanatory Model (EM) approach was used to gain a sense of the beliefs about aging from Alaska Natives. Research findings indicate that aging successfully is based on local understandings about personal responsibility and making the conscious decision to live a clean and healthy life, abstaining from drugs and alcohol. The findings also indicate that poor aging is often characterized by a lack of personal responsibility, or not being active, not being able to handle alcohol, and giving up on oneself. Most participants stated that elder status is not determined by reaching a certain age (e.g., 65), but instead is designated when an individual has demonstrated wisdom because of the experiences he or she has gained throughout life. This research seeks to inform future studies on rural aging that prioritizes the perspectives of elders to impact positively on the delivery of health care services and programs in rural Alaska.
Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Alaska Native
- Rural community
- Rural health
- Successful aging