In tribal communities, elders are considered the “wisdom-keepers” and are held in the highest regard. However, these same American Indian and Alaska Native elders comprise the most economically disadvantaged group in the nation and are at increasing risk of financial exploitation and neglect.

NCAI is committed to ensuring that Native elders receive the respect, resources, and care that they deserve.

Language and cultural barriers severely restrict Native elder access to federal and state programs for which they are eligible, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Tribes are in the best position to provide desperately needed services to Native elders, as well as to enroll them in the federal programs to which they are entitled. However, grants that fund tribal elder programs have a history of being well managed yet are woefully inadequate to meet existing needs.

For example, due to insufficient funding, many tribes cannot meet the five-day-a-week meal requirement mandated under Title VI of the Older Americans Act, and instead serve congregate meals only two or three days per week. Similarly, some tribal Title VI programs are forced to close for a number of days each week, which means they are unable to provide Native elders with basic services, such as transportation, information and referral, legal assistance, respite or adult day care, home visits, homemaker services, or home health aide services.

As Congress considers reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, NCAI strongly recommends a serious commitment to Native elders through significantly increased funding of tribal elder programs.