Aging, Health and Place from the Perspective of Elders in an Inuit Community

Abstract

This paper explores perspectives of Inuit elders on the relationships between aging, health and place. Their views are important to consider in the context of a growing proportion and number of older people in Arctic communities, a new sociological condition. Developing policies and programs to promote healthy aging in Inuit communities is challenging as there is little known about the social and living conditions that promote healthy aging in the Arctic. In this study twenty Inuit aged between 50 to 86, from one community in Nunavut, participated to in-depth qualitative interviews. Themes discussed included aging and health, housing conditions, community conditions, land-based activities, medical and leisure travel outside of the community, and mobility and accessibility. Preliminary analyses of the qualitative data were validated in the community through a focus group with four participants and an interpreter. Interviews and the focus group transcripts were analysed using thematic content analyses and NVivo 12 qualitative data analysis program (QSR International Pty Ltd. 2017). Participants reported that spending time with children, having social support, living in houses adapted to aging health conditions, having access to community activities and services, and time spent on the land were the main resources supporting their health. Several factors limited the availability of these resources. These include: lack of accessibility to resources; structural factors impacting their availability; and natural and social changes in interpersonal relationships. Participants also stressed the importance of being able to grow old in their own community. Knowledge generated in this project contributes to policies and programs targeting housing and community conditions to support healthy aging, and aging in place, in Inuit Nunangat.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants and the organisations of Baker Lake for their time and implication in this research. At the time of this project, M. Baron was supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Ministère des études supérieures et de la recherche in Quebec and from ArcticNet (a network of centres of excellence in Canada). Data collection was supported through a mobility scholarship from the Chaire Louis-Edmond Hamelin at Laval University. M. Riva holds a Canada Research Chair in Housing, Community and Health (CIHR 950-231678)

Funding

This study was funded by ArcticNet (Phase IV 2015–2018).

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Appendix: Interview grid

Appendix: Interview grid

In this interview, I would like to talk with you about your health and living conditions that are good for your health. By living conditions, I mean housing conditions, community services. But first, I would like to talk with you about your health now.

Block: Meaning of age and health and discussion opening

  • As a beginning, I thought that you could tell me where you come from? Would you like to tell me a little about you? Where were you born? Tell me about where you lived?

  • And what about now? How long have you lived here?

I would like to ask you a few questions about your life now, and your health.

  • What does it mean being (xx) years old to you? How would you describe your life now?

  • How is your health now/these days?

  • Has it changed in the last years? If yes: what happened (and when)?

  • (depending answers to last questions) What helped improving your health/maintain it/ protecting it?

  • What would help someone maintain/improve health when getting older? What is important for the health of older people?

Block: Housing conditions

Now I will ask you questions about your house. I would like to talk about specific environmental features that help/could help you be healthy.

If living in own house.

  • How long have you lived in this house? Have you always lived here?

  • Let’s talk about your house. Do you think your house is a good place to be healthy? To grow old? Why/why not? What would you like to improve?

  • What features of your house do you like? Would you like to have? do you dislike?

  • What do you think would be a good house for older people? Do you think the houses are good for older people in Baker Lake?

  • (if not living alone): is it important /good for you to have people living around you? how do you like having people/your family living with you?

  • (if leaving alone): how do you like living in your own house?

Elders long-term care centre:

  • How long have you been in Martha’s centre? Where did you live before?

  • Is living here good for you? For your health?

  • What do you like about the centre? What don’t you like?

  • What are the features/commodities/ you like? What is missing?

  • What would you like to be improved?

  • Do you think places like Martha’s centre should exist in other communities? Why?

Block: Community

Let’s talk about Baker Lake.

  • Is Baker Lake a good place to grow old? Do you like living in Baker Lake?

  • What do you specifically like here? What do you dislike?

  • Are there places in Baker Lake that are good for you? For your health?

  • Are there places that are good for Elders/Older people?

  • Are there activities organised that are good for older people’s health? Who organises them? Why are they good/not?

  • Do you have all the services you need to be healthy?

  • What is missing? What would you think would be important to have? Not important?

Block: Other places

  • What other places and activities are good for your health outside of Baker Lake? For older adults health?

  • Going on the Land? Elsewhere in Nunavut? Winnipeg?

  • Why is this place good for health?

  • Is it easy to go there? Can people easily go there? if yes/no: why?

  • Do you go there alone? Who do you go there with?

Block: mobility.

  • Is it easy for you to get to the places you need to be healthy/for your health?

  • Can you go where you want in Baker Lake/elsewhere?

  • Do you think some people have difficulties to go everywhere they need? Why? What is done for them/could be done?

  • What limits your mobility? What could help you go where you need (for example people, skidoo, community bus).

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Baron, M., Fletcher, C. & Riva, M. Aging, Health and Place from the Perspective of Elders in an Inuit Community. J Cross Cult Gerontol 35, 133–153 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10823-020-09398-5

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Keywords

  • Aging-in-place
  • Aging research
  • Canadian Inuit
  • Healthy aging
  • Indigenous research
  • Social determinants of health