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Alaska Native Elders’ Perspectives on Physical Activity and Successful Aging

  • Lauren A. Brooks-Cleator (a1) and Jordan P. Lewis (a2)

Abstract

Physical activity is widely considered to be a significant contributing factor to how “successfully” one ages. There are, however, certain groups whose voices have not been widely heard in discussions around physical activity and aging, particularly those from diverse cultural backgrounds. In this research, we explored how Alaska Native Elders perceive the role of physical activity as they age and its contribution to successful aging. Based on semi-structured interviews with 41 Elders, the results show that engaging in physical activity was not just seen as a personal responsibility to maintain health and age successfully, but also as a way to resist Western society’s dominant view of older adults as deteriorating and declining by being physically active regardless of age; to improve or maintain their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health; and/or to enable them to continue participating in subsistence activities that are rooted in their culture and traditional roles as Elders.

L’activité physique est généralement considérée comme un facteur contribuant de façon significative au vieillissement réussi d’une personne. Certains groupes n’ont cependant pas été suffisamment représentés dans les discussions sur l’activité physique et le vieillissement, particulièrement ceux provenant d’horizons culturels différents. Dans cet article, nous explorons comment les aînés autochtones de l’Alaska perçoivent le rôle de l’activité physique au cours de leur vieillissement et la contribution de l’activité physique au vieillissement réussi. Les entretiens semi-structurés menés auprès de 41 aînés ont montré que l’activité physique n’était pas seulement perçue comme une responsabilité personnelle en vue du maintien d’une bonne santé lors du vieillissement, mais aussi comme un moyen de résister à l’opinion répandue voulant que les personnes âgées soient dans une phase de déclin. Pour ces aînés, être physiquement actif, peu importe l’âge, était vu comme un moyen pour améliorer ou maintenir leur état physique, mental, émotionnel ou spirituel, et permettrait de participer aux activités de subsistance qui sont rattachées à leur culture et aux rôles ancestraux qui leur sont reconnus.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Lauren A. Brooks-Cleator, Ph.D. School of Social Work Carleton University 1125 Colonel By Dr. Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6 (LaurenBrooksCleator@cunet.carleton.ca)

Footnotes

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We thank all of the Elders who participated in this research, as well as the Elder Care Coordinators in each community and the members of the Elder Advisory Committee. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Polar Programs, Arctic Social Sciences, Award #: 1522744 (Principal Investigator, JP Lewis) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, Funding Reference Number FSS-149189.

Footnotes

References

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Alaska Native Elders’ Perspectives on Physical Activity and Successful Aging

  • Lauren A. Brooks-Cleator (a1) and Jordan P. Lewis (a2)

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