Supporting Indigenous Elders

Indigenous elders who accessed services through Title VI of the Older Americans Act experienced fewer falls and hospitalizations per year than those who did not receive assistance.

graphs on Indigenous elderly people's physical well-being

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Elderly Indigenous people experience higher rates of falls than other races and ethnicities. Among the elderly Indigenous population, 34.2 % of adults age 65 and older have falls, and falling is the leading cause of injury-related deaths.

Title VI of the Older Americans Act (OAA) provides culturally responsive services dedicated to supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of Indigenous elders. The program is based on traditional and holistic views of health, focusing on outcomes of social and cultural connectedness and emotional and physical well-being. These services increase socialization among older adults, positively impacting their health.

Researcher Gretchen S. Clarke and her colleagues assessed the effectiveness of the Title VI programs by comparing outcomes for social and cultural connectedness and physical and mental wellbeing among different groups within a sample of older Native participants. The researchers separated the participants into subgroups based on the elders’ use of Title IV services and the number of services received.

As seen in the figure above, the first group was based on whether the participants used Title IV services at all. The second and third groups were based on how many services the participants utilized, classified as “high service provision grantee-overall” and “high service provision grantees for congregate meals.” The graphs show the average number of falls and hospitalizations across these groups of elders.

Older Natives who received Title VI services experienced fewer falls and hospitalizations per year than those who did not receive assistance. Similar findings are seen among those who often used their Title VI benefits for health care compared to those who did not. Those who took advantage of Title VI also experienced higher social and cultural connectedness, which has been shown to increase physical and cognitive abilities among Indigenous communities.

With a documented link between experiences of social isolation or loneliness and increased rates of limited physical ability and multiple health diagnoses, culturally informed programs, such as Title VI, remain essential to the health of Indigenous people.

Databyte via Gretchen S. Clarke, Elizabeth B. Douglas, Sofia Campos, et al. Building connection and improving health for Indigenous elders: Findings from the Title VI evaluation. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2022.