Elders, on average, are living longer now than ever before. While aging does bring new challenges, it also provides new opportunities. As another stage in the cycle of life, we look toward our Elder years with the understanding that while some doors will have closed, others are now open to us.
For American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Elders, growing older has provided us with a lifetime of valuable experiences and lessons learned. Through struggles and successes, we have gained wisdom about many different subjects. Elders are looked to for this wisdom, for guidance, from the younger generations. It is both a privilege and responsibility to pass along our knowledge to educate those who will follow in our footsteps.
As we transition from being the providers for our own children, we may also have the chance to educate and raise the next generation. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren benefit from the first-hand accounts of history that we lived. In allowing our own children to endeavor as the providers in our families, we gain the time to leave the gift of our insights, our history, and our love with those in our families and communities. While the process of aging can be difficult and sometimes is not easy to accept, AI/AN Elders have the unique ability to help preserve our traditions, languages, and cultures.
Through aging and retirement, we also are allowed the time we need to reflect on our lives, to try new things, and to continue to learn. Those working full-time and building their careers may not get to enjoy this kind of quality time, with many different people and situations in competition for their attention and focus. Retired Elders may instead focus on relationships, our families, and our communities during this unique time in our lives.
The National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (NICOA) is committed to effecting meaningful policy changes and advocacy to help improve the quality of life of all AI/AN Elders. More than that, NICOA is committed to providing the information and resources that can help our Elder community age healthily and continue to live with purpose in their golden years.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.