The Role of the Social Engagement in the Definition of Successful Ageing among Alaska Native Elders in Bristol Bay, Alaska

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This article explores the role of social engagement (family and community support) in Alaska Native (AN) Elders’ definitions of successful ageing, why social engagement is important to the health and well-being of AN Elders. In terms of methods, each tribal council nominated AN Elders, ranging in age from 61 to 93 years old, resulting in a purposive sample of 25. Interviews consisted of open- and closed-ended questions, ranging from 45 to 90 minutes. Content analysis was used to find recurring themes and infer meaning from the data and understand the ageing process in rural Alaska. The Elders discussed the importance of family and community, not only as a source of support but also as part of their culture and identity. Family support provided them with meaningful roles in their family, which contributed to their well-being, optimism and generative behaviours. Community support involved Elders’ inclusion in community events and activities and feeling they were supported and meaningfully engaged by their community. The themes in this study highlight the importance of social engagement for AN Elders. This study suggests that perhaps more focus should be placed on social engagement of AN Elders to ensure successful ageing and not just physical and mental health conditions. This Indigenous psychology perspective on positive ageing may serve as a point of dialogue with future First Nations studies of generativity in old age globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-290
Number of pages28
JournalPsychology and Developing Societies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 28 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad.


  • Alaska Native
  • Indigenous
  • Successful ageing
  • community engagement
  • well-being


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