Connected Indigenous Elders
In our American Indian and Alaska Native communities, there is time when we are alone to pray or silent to help us reflect or gather our thoughts. But many elders say they are lonely or socially isolated, spending hours, even days alone, without family or community members calling to check in on or visiting them.
This time alone can be detrimental to the health of our elders, our culture keepers, our language speakers, our teachers, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers and uncles; our family and cherished relatives.
We know that Indigenous elders who are socially connected:
- Live longer
- Are healthier and avoid such issues as high blood pressure, colds and flus
- Have less hospitalization and fewer trips to the emergency room
- Are happier
- Have protection from or avoid mental health issues, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s
The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) has embarked on a social isolation and loneliness awareness campaign for elders and their caregivers with a grant from the CDC Foundation to help all members of our communities understand the issue, which was already a concern and worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Youth and tribal leaders have a role as members who will carry on the teachings and decision-makers who can create policies to further support elders and their caregivers.
NICOA, our communities and our elders, encourage you to reach out and connect to elders in your tribes, villages and nations. Indigenous elders will thank you.