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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Too much time and the days are long : housing Native elders in a small northern community Azzolini, Luciano Secondo


The Northwest Territories faces many challenges and elders' housing is one of the greatest. Many elders alive today were born in the bush and lived in log cabins. They are in many respects the last links to a declining way of life. The number of independent elders in the small northern communities is also increasing, and they have special housing needs. Addressing these needs appropriately requires an understanding of who elders are and what their roles are within the community. This thesis evaluates the housing alternatives provided by the Northwest Territorial Housing Corporation for elders in Fort Providence, and the Northwest Territories in general. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate existing housing programs to determine their relevance to native elders and to provide information that is useful to community planners, native leaders and health care providers. The answers to the issues and problems raised in the literature review are supplied by the elders. The implications of the elders' answers are then reviewed in light of the literature review. The results of the study reveal that the definition, role and responsibility of elders have changed significantly over the last forty years and that their housing alternatives are limited, but apparently acceptable. The major concerns elders have with their housing is reflective of the changes they have experienced in their life time. Many prefer living both traditional and modern ways, incorporating both the tent and the bungalow into their lives. The roles of elders may have changed but the values and importance of elders has not decreased. Many elders still live in their own rental homes, often their first 'Western' style homes, taking care, or being taken care of, by family. Interestingly, a new category of elder seems to have emerged - the single elder that is either divorced, separated, widowed or never married. These "new" elders, by choice, choose to live in the seniors' residence. The study also reveals that elders are more interested in the maintenance of their homes, and ensuring that they can transfer their rental homes to their children, then they are of their housing alternatives. Finally, the study shovi/s that existing Northwest Territorial Housing Corporation programs and community planning practices have a strong emphasis on the physical aspect of elders' housing to the exclusion of elders social needs. The elders indicate that their physical environment including, their home, community and countryside is linked to, their social environment. Improving elders' housing physical alternatives must therefore go hand in hand with enhancing their social conditions as well.

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