Protecting our Elders

Deb Starnes

Ten percent of IHCRC's annual patient population are ages 65 and up. Another 1,500 are ages 55 to 64. According to the U.S. Census, 14.2% or 6,387 of Tulsa County's population are Native American ages 65+. Elders in Native American societies play a vital role in the preservation of Indian culture. Elders teach younger generations about spirituality and history. They are considered to "wisdom-keepers" and are held in the highest regard.

Unfortunately, these same American Indian and Alaska Native elders comprise the most economically disadvantaged group in the nation and are at increasing risk of health disparities, financial exploitation, and neglect. Additionally, this group is often responsible for the raising of grandchildren.

During 2020, IHCRC received an invitation to apply for a grant from the United Health Foundation. The United Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of UnitedHealth Group, a diversified health care company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system work better for everyone. It is an honor to be invited to apply for a grant.

IHCRC submitted a project with the goal of reducing health disparities and disease complications in Tulsa County's Native American community ages 65 and over. The proposed project consists of five patient community ages 65+: (1) comprehensive medical care; (2) behavioral health services; (3) fitness activities; (4) medical social work services; and (5) health education for individuals ages 65+ and their caregivers.

In September United Health Care announced that IHCRC has been awarded a $1.8 million grant for its Protecting Our Elders program. IHCRC is honored and humbled to be partnering with United Health Foundation.