Services for Native American Elders
American Indians living on reservations have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the United States. High rates of disease, accidents, inadequate health care and lack of access to affordable nutritious food are some of the reasons life expectancy on reservations lags behind the general US population. However, consistent with general trends for America’s population, the American Indian and Alaskan Native population is living longer than in the previous decade. Already, services for American Indian elders on reservations tend to be inadequate, leading to concerns that the system is not prepared to deal with the needs of a larger aging population. Families generally honor their responsibility to care for their aging relatives. However, fewer than 15% of reservation residents have respite care services available, meaning elders whose families are not available to care for them age in their homes, often isolated and with little systematic support.