Jordan P Lewis

PhD, Associate Director, Professor

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Successful Aging among Alaska Native Elders; American Indian dementia caregiver peer programs; generativity and health care promotion


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Peer Reviewed Publications

Brown, B., Pedersen, M., Harrington, J., Belcourt, A., Windchief, S., Thomas, A., Plenty Sweetgrass She Kills, R., Conroy-Ben, O., Brodt, E., Chief, K., Hoagland, S., Johnson-Jennings, M., Lewis, J., Green Mink, K., Milligan-Myhre, K., Calhoun, M., Ozburn, A., Simonds, V., Des Rosier Grant, A., Hill, S., Wu, K. (2022). Exploring personal, relational, and collective experiences and mentorship connections that enhance or inhibit professional development and career advancement of American Indian/Alaska Native faculty in STEM fields: A qualitative study. In review, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Advance online publication.

Pedersen M, Harris KJ, Lewis J, Grant M, Kleinmeyer C, Glass A, Graham N, Brown B, King D. (2021). Uplifting the voices of rural American Indian older adults to improve understanding of physical activity behavior. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 4.  

 Lewis, J.P. (2021). What can a recovery model for Alaska Natives teach us about substance use and older adults? Generations,

Pedersen, M., Harris K.J., Brown, B., Anderson, K., & Lewis, J.P. (2021). A Systematic Review of Interventions to Increase Physical Activity Among American Indian and Alaska Native Older Adults. The Gerontologist.

Wortman, E., & Lewis, J.P. (2021). “I’m thankful the community learned in their upbringing to always share with the elders.” Gerotranscendence and successful aging in the Aleutian Pribilof Islands, Alaska. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology.


Lewis, J.P., Suchy-Dicey, A.M., Noonan, C., Jernigan, V., Domoto-Reilly, K., Umans, J.G., Buchwald, D., & Manson, S. (2021). The contribution of binge drinking to vascular brain injury and structural atrophy in elder American Indians: The Strong Heart Study. 

Journal of Aging and Health, 2108 NIDP Reunion Scientific Symposium, Special Issue.


Lewis, J.P., Noonan, C., Jernigan, V., & Manson, S. (2020). “Making sense of a disease that makes no sense.” Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders among caregivers and providers in Alaska. The Gerontologist, gnaa102,


Skewes, M., Gonzalez, V., Gameon, J., Firemoon, P., Salois, E.M., Rasmus, S., Lewis, J.P., Gardner, S.A., Ricker, A., & Reum, M. (2020). Health Disparities Research With American Indian Communities: The Importance of Trust and Transparency. American Journal of Community Psychology, Special Issue on CBPR Approaches to Understand and Addressing Health Disparities and Promoting Health Equity.


Fife, B., Brooks-Cleator, L.A., & Lewis, J.P. (2020). “The world was shifting under our feet, so I turned to my devotionals as his dementia worsened:” the role of spirituality as a coping mechanism for family caregivers for family members of Alaska Native elders with dementia. Journal of Religion, Spirituality, and Aging, 1-19.


Brooks-Cleator, L.A., & Lewis, J.P. (2019). Alaska Native Elders’ perspectives on physical activity and successful aging. Canadian Journal on Aging/La Revue Canadienne due Vieillssement. doi:10.1017/S0714980819000400 


Lewis, J.P., Boyd, K., Allen, J., Rasmus, S., & Henderson, T. (2018). “We raise our grandchildren as our own children:" Alaska Native grandparents raising grandchildren in Southwest Alaska. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, 33(3), 265-286. Doi: 10.1007/s10823-018-9350-z


Lewis, J.P., & Allen, J. (2017). Alaska Native Elders in Recovery: Linkages between Indigenous Cultural Generativity and Sobriety to promote Successful Aging. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, 32(2), 209-222.


Lewis, J.P. (2016). American Indian/Alaska Native Elders: A growing demographic that is changing how we view aging. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 59(4), 277-280.


Skewes, M.C., & Lewis, J.P. (2016). Sobriety and alcohol use among rural Alaska Native elders. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 75(1), 1-8.


LePak, J.E., Lewis, J.P., & Walters, K. (2016). “I’m in this world for a reason:”

Resilience and Recovery among American Indian and Alaska Native Two Spirit Women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 20(3/4).


Henderson, T. L., Dinh, M., Morgan, K, & Lewis, J. (2015). Alaska Native grandparents rearing grandchildren: A rural community story.  Journal of Family Issues, 38(4), 547-572. doi:10.1177/0192513X15597292.


Lewis, J.P. (2014). The role of the social engagement in the definition of successful aging among Alaska Native Elders in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Psychology of Developing Societies, 26(2), 263-290.


Lewis, J.P. (2014). What successful aging means to Alaska Natives: Exploring the reciprocal relationship between the health and well-being of Alaska Native Elders. International Journal of Ageing and Society, 3(1), 77-88. ISSN: 2160-1909.


Lewis, J.P. (2013). The Importance of Optimism in Maintaining Healthy Aging in Rural Alaska.  Qualitative Health Research23(11). Doi: 10.1177/1049732313508013 


Lewis, J.P. (2013). The future of successful aging in Alaska: What can we learn from our Elders to ensure a healthy future.  International Journal of Circumpolar Health (72), 21186.  This paper is part of Supplement 1, 2013, ICCH15 Proceedings.


Lewis, J.P. (2011). Successful aging through the eyes of Alaska Native Elders. What it means to be an Elder in Bristol Bay, AK. The Gerontologist, 51(4), 540-549. doi:10.1093/geront/gnr006

Lewis, J. (2010).  Successful aging through the eyes of Alaska Natives. Exploring generational differences among Alaska Natives.  Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 25 (4), 385-396. doi:10.1007/s10823-010-9124-8. 

Book Chapters

Lewis, J.P. (2022). Reclaiming Our Identity Through Indigenous Cultural Generative Acts to Improve Mental Health of All Generations (pp. 181-194). Indigenous Knowledge and Mental Health. Springer Publisher.

Lewis, J.P. (2021). Generativity and Aging Well for Alaska Natives. (pp. 327-334). Aging Across Cultures: Growing Old in the Non-Western World. Springer Publisher.

Crouch, M., & Lewis, J.P. (2021). Alaskan Native Quality of Life: Culture, Rurality, and the Sacred. Quality of Life in the Countryside.

 Lewis, J.P. (2020). Alaska Natives in recovery and Indigenous cultural generativity: Sharing redemptive narratives improve quality of life. Global Social Work: Cutting Edge Issues and Critical Reflections. IntechOpen Publishers.

 Lewis, J.P. (2019). Indigenous cultural generativity: Teaching future generations to improve our quality of life. Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging.

 Lewis, J.P. (2019). Reclaiming our identity through indigenous cultural generative acts to improve mental health of all generations. Indigenous Mental Health, University of Guelph. Toronto, Canada

 Dougherty, J., Lewis, J.P., & Lomay, N. (2018). Working with American Indian and Alaska Native Families in Dementia Care. Ethnicity and the Dementias. Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

 Tovar, M., Patterson, D., & Lewis, J. (2015). American Indian/Alaska Native Elders. In The Oxford Handbook of Social Work in Health and Aging. Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

 Allen, J., Lewis, J., & Johnson-Jennings, M. (2015). Well-being and health counseling; Pedersen, P. B., Draguns, J. G., Lonner, W. J., & Trimble, J. E. Counseling Across Cultures, Seventh Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 433-453.

Lewis, J.P., Allen, J., & Fleagle, E. (2014). “We have to go through the problem:” Internalized Oppression and Alaska Native People. Internalized Oppression: The Psychology of Marginalized Groups. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. pp. 57-81.

Tovar, M., Lewis, J., & Patterson, D. (2013). Older Native Americans. The Handbook of Social Work in Health and Aging, Second Edition. Oxford University Press.


Contact Information

Jordan P. Lewis, PhD, MSW
(Unangax, Native Village of Naknek)
Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team - Health Equity 
Professor, Department of Family Medicine & Biobehavioral Health 
University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus
624 E. 1st. Street, Suite 201
Duluth, Minnesota 55805

Research interests

Over the past decade, my research agenda has significantly contributed to the field with discussions on culture-specific approaches to successful aging in two specific areas. First, my work established a culturally congruent Alaska Native (AN) perspective and understanding of AN successful aging and led to a theory of AN healthy aging (Lewis, 2011). My novel research stands in contrast and steers away from the ethnocentric definition and concepts currently found in mainstream gerontology literature. The most common definitions of successful aging focus on the lack of disease and disability and healthy mental well-being; it is based on assumptions that effects of aging are tied to disease. My research challenges these definitions of successful aging and reconstructs AN aging using a strengths-based, non-medical, systems approach perspective. Through Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR), my work to define AN successful aging gives voice to Elders, enabling them to define their own aging processes, while contributing to concepts of Indigenous health and aging. For example, my previous work with AN Elders identified one key characteristic of successful aging to be a willingness and desire to pass down their wisdom and experiences to ensure a healthy future for younger community members. I coined the term Indigenous cultural generativity, which is further detailed below. My research in this area has resulted in book chapters, peer-reviewed publications and professional presentations highlighting how this concept can be used to address health disparities in tribal communities. My Indigenous theoretical and methodological perspectives align with the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team (MK-MDT) mandate and approach to preserve brain health by collaborative, community-based research.

Over the past three years, my research agenda has expanded to include Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) among AN Elders. I explored the cultural understandings and constructions of ADRD, identified barriers to timely care, and assisted communities in developing culturally appropriate programming both from the perspectives of the Elders and their family caregivers (Lewis, Noonan, Jernigan, & Manson, in press). Qualitative data illustrates that AN communities and families view and understand ADRD from a non-medical, western biomedical model of health and illness. Through community-based work with tribal communities, I have identified barriers to proper assessment and diagnoses of ADRD. These include limited knowledge and lack of training of health care providers, including their understandings of ADRD from a cultural lens. As a community psychologist, I am trained to work with communities to develop culturally relevant programs and services to improve the health and wellbeing of community members across the lifespan. I learned of increased concern of ADRD among Elders and without caregiver education and resources, a timely diagnosis and proper care is delayed until advanced stages of the disease. The lack of a cultural understanding and explanatory model of Indigenous dementia creates barriers and misunderstanding by health care providers and families, delaying diagnoses and treatments. The next step in my research is to address this gap in knowledge and partner with caregivers and their loved ones to conduct a qualitative study to explore cultural understandings of ADRD in Indigenous communities to develop caregiver training and education. Stories illustrate that AN communities and families view and understand ADRD from a non-medical, western biomedical model of health and illness. 

My scholarly contributions include the development of a model of AN successful aging, the theory of AN healthy aging, the concept of Indigenous cultural generativity, and cultural understandings and construction of ADRD among AN caregivers. In addition to producing a model of AN successful aging, my research has developed an important model of Indigenous cultural generativity (Lewis & Allen, 2017). My research has identified indigenous cultural generativity as a critical source of meaning and identity. Cultural generativity is a crucial ingredient to healthy aging, a resilience resource, and an important tool for AN Elders. My work on Indigenous cultural generativity is nuanced and detailed and has important implications for the wellbeing of Alaska Native and American Indians, including those with ADRD, their caregivers, and family and community members. This model has the potential to guide significant future research in the area of Indigenous health and dementia, with generalizability to aging theory among all marginalized groups.

Professional Information

  • American Society on Aging – since 2005
    • Diversity & Inclusion Committee – Chair 2015-2016

                Past Chair 2016-2017

    Chair-Elect 2014-2015

    Board member - present

  • American Society for Circumpolar Health (Board member, 2018)
  • American Psychological Association (APA) 
    • Co-Chair, Resilience, Coping, and Successful Aging Special Interest Group

This Interest Group foster the professional development, education, and networks of APA members committed to improving the quality of life of others in their communities and bring more awareness to the strengths-approach to psychology and wellbeing of its members and research agenda.  

  • Division 20: Adult Development and Aging
  • Division 27: Society for Community Research and Action
  • APA Minority Fellowship Program
  • Gerontological Society of America 
    • Fellow, Behavioral & Social Sciences Division
    • Chair, Indigenous Peoples & Aging Interest Group

This Interest Group brings together Indigenous scholars and students who are studying aging to create a safe space where cultural values, beliefs, and ways of understanding aging are celebrated. This group also creates a forum for members to educate members of the larger organization on strengths and resilience of Indigenous Elders. 

  • International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
  • National Association of Professional Gerontologists 
  • National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities Council Member, Region X representative (2018-2021)
  • International Union of Circumpolar Health Researchers 
  • International Arctic Social Sciences Association 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Successful Aging through the eyes of Alaska Native Elders: What it means to be an Elder in Bristol Bay, AK, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Aug 1 2005Dec 18 2009

Award Date: Dec 18 2009

MSW, Washington University St. Louis

Aug 1 1999Dec 15 2000

Award Date: Dec 15 2000

Research Interest Keywords

  • Indigenous aging
  • Rural Community Health
  • Successful Aging
  • Indigenous dementia
  • Generativity


The Fingerprint is created by mining the titles and abstracts of the person's research outputs and projects/funding awards to create an index of weighted terms from discipline-specific thesauri.
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