News & Events


April 28, 2016

Generativity and Alaska Native Elders

On February 11, 2016, Dr. Jordan Lewis gave an insightful presentation on what healthy aging in Alaska Native Elders looks like at the UW School of JordanSocial Work Research Roundtable titled, “The future gives me strength today: The role of generativity in health and well-being of Alaska Native Elders.”

During his talk, he touched upon the key reasons that drives his research. In reviewing the current literature, he noted that aging is not necessarily viewed as a positive process, but is often characterized as similar to disease, and that racial and ethnic minority groups are not aging well. However, Dr. Lewis presented some notable results from two of his research projects, Successful aging through the eyes of Alaska Native Elders, and Generativity and optimism among homeless Alaska Native Elders. These two projects challenge the general negative, disease-based views of aging in mainstream literature by outlining four main areas that he has found lead to successful aging: 1) Spirituality, 2) emotional well-being 3) community engagement (i.e. teaching others), and 4) physical health. Additionally, Dr. Lewis elucidated on an emerging common thread that supports healthy aging in Native Elders—the act of generativity, defined as “the seventh stage of development in later life that refers to a time when personal resources are given to others and used to improve the quality of society…teaching and leading the ‘Seventh Generation.’” Generativity happens when an Elder passes down traditional values, subsistence practices, language, beliefs, and “any activity that preserves the culture of a family and community.” (Lewis, 2014, 2016) Dr. Lewis concluded his presentation with a discussion of next steps such as developing a test model of successful aging, with culturally relevant education and training materials, as well as further research on the cultural understanding of generativity’s impact on Elder well-being.

Dr. Lewis is an Assistant Professor at the UW School of Social Work with the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute National Center of Excellence. He is an Aleut (Alaska Native) originally from the Native Village of Naknek in Bristol Bay, Alaska. His educational training and work experience in Alaska has provided him the tools to be one of the few Indigenous scholars dedicated to research with tribal communities in Alaska to explore healthy aging, and implementing public health interventions to reduce alcohol-related problems and promote healthy aging in Alaska Native and other racial and ethnic minority groups.