The importance of optimism in maintaining healthy aging in rural Alaska

Qual Health Res. 2013 Nov;23(11):1521-7. doi: 10.1177/1049732313508013. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


Many Alaska Native Elders attended government-run boarding schools as children, were forbidden to speak their native language, and were forced to abandon their traditional subsistence lifestyle, yet they maintained an optimistic outlook on life and continued to age well. The Explanatory Model Interview Protocol was adapted to interview a purposive sample of Alaska Native Elders (n = 26) and grounded theory was used to develop a model of successful aging for Alaska Native Elders in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The theme of optimism was significant in the findings and was also found in each of the elements of successful aging, which were spirituality, emotional well-being, community engagement, and physical health. These four elements served as the foundation of the Model of Successful Aging. The Elders believed they were able to age successfully because they continued to be optimistic despite the challenges they faced (and are currently facing) in their communities.

Keywords: Aboriginal people / North America; aging; grounded theory; health and well-being; older people; qualitative analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alaska
  • Culture
  • Educational Status
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Population
  • Spirituality