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Abstract

As a minority group, American Indians have the distinction of being the smallest and the poorest. Their cultural diversity and unique relationship with the United States government set them even further apart from other minority groups. A subgroup of Native Americans about which little is known and even less has been written is the Native American elderly. This group is the focal point of this paper.

This paper reviews selected works by anthropologists, psychologists, social workers, health care professionals, and Native Americans. The intent is to identify and assess the formal and informal support systems to which the Native American elderly have access. Identified needs of the elderly will be contrasted with what is available via these formal and informal systems. Informal systems are identified as those natural support systems such as the nuclear and extended family, peer groups, and cultural systems, while formal systems are the products of governmental policies and the service delivery systems emanating from them. Attention is given to the impact these policies and services have on this sector of the American population.

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