American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest poverty rate of any group — 29.2 percent as opposed to the nation as a whole at 15.9 percent — according to 2013 data from the United States Census Bureau. Projected poverty rates for American Indians and Alaska Native elders in 2030 are 10.9 percent, more than twice the rest of the total population, which is projected to be 4.7 percent.
The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) is grant funded to serve as a partner in the National Consortium on Aging Resources for Seniors’ Equity. The goals of the Elder Equity project are to financially empower American Indian and Alaska Native elders by building their financial capability and raising awareness of elder abuse, financial exploitation, scams and fraud, as well as bringing Native elder concerns to the Aging Network and other interested stakeholders.
NICOA joins other aging organizations to provide an interconnected resource center. The consortium was established by the Administration for Community Living in 2012 and is composed of five national minority aging organization partners, each of whom represents a major racial and ethnic minority elder population: the National Association for Hispanic Elderly, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging and NICOA. The consortium works as an interconnected resource center to decrease the prevalence of disparities among racial and ethnic minority and LGBTQ elders, their families and caregivers, by providing technical assistance to the Aging Network.
The consortium provides insights and techniques to the Aging Network about effective outreach and meaningful involvement with a person-centered approach in serving diverse elders. They develop comprehensive culturally relevant technical assistance that can be tailored to meet the service delivery needs of Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, African American, LGBTQ and American Indian and Alaska Native elders.
NICOA is also a member of the Diverse Elders Coalition; partnering with four other national aging organizations — NAPCA, National Hispanic Council on Aging, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center — to advocate for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people. NICOA works in partnership with National Congress of American Indians to ensure that the voices and concerns of elders are represented and supported at the national level. The NICOA board chairperson serves as the chairman of the NCAI Elder Committee.
Avoiding Scams and Financial Exploitation
Elders are an attractive target for scammers. Many own their home and have monthly checks and other valuable resources. Those at risk include women, those who live alone, and elders with physical disabilities or cognitive impairment. Financial exploitation may also be an indication of other forms of abuse.
Building Elder Financial Capability
To combat these pitfalls, NICOA has responded by developing a strong knowledge base of best practices and training to share useful, practical tools which help Native elders understand how they can manage their finances and take control of their future. To build financial capability we are using the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit which provides a comprehensive approach to understanding money and offers ways to begin talking about money and our priorities.
Most American families do not discuss money and this lack of openness and silence can harm our financial health. Your Money, Your Goals has a Focus on Native Communities companion guide which was designed in partnership with tribes across the country. We also use Money Smart for Older Adults as a good overview of the various ways fraud and scams can enter our lives if we are not alert. We are offering these trainings to help our elders plan for predictable life events and build resources which can help them weather unexpected events.
Elder Equity Projects
NICOA integrated culturally relevant training and technical assistance that highlighted the barriers to services that all American Indian and Alaska Native elders face as well as the strategies and tools for overcoming those barriers.
Native Elder Digital Storytelling Project
Our collection of digital stories shares elders personal stories and experiences. The stories were created, written, and narrated by elders, then paired with their personal photos and other media to provide a modern approach to traditional oral storytelling.
Your Money, Your Goals and Money Smart
NICOA’s Your Money, Your Goals program offers a variety of resources and training materials to help elders with their money challenges, and can be adapted to fit each elder’s priorities and goals. Another available program is Money Smart for Older Adults, a resource guide that has sound advice on how to avoid telephone and internet scams, as well as identity theft and scams aimed at homeowners and veterans.