Importance of Indigenous elders' contributions to individual and community wellness: results from a scoping review on social participation and intergenerational solidarity


OBJECTIVE: Wellness is a challenge for Indigenous peoples, partly because Western services do not adopt a holistic approach. By devaluing traditional knowledge, Indigenous values and beliefs, these services lower Indigenous power and affect cultural identities. Indigenous elders participate in intergenerational solidarity by transmitting knowledge, values, and culture in a holistic approach. Despite widespread acceptance of the importance of Indigenous elders' contributions to wellness, a rigorous synthesis of knowledge has never been done. This study aimed to provide a comprehensive understanding of how Indigenous elders' social participation contributes to individual and community wellness. METHOD: A scoping review was conducted with Indigenous elders and stakeholders in Québec (Canada). Sixteen databases were searched with 57 keywords. Data from the documents retrieved were analyzed, organized, and synthesized based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. SYNTHESIS: A total of 144 documents were examined, comprising 74 scientific papers and 70 sources from the gray literature. Indigenous elders contributed to wellness mainly through relationships and interactions with other community members and non-Indigenous people (72.2%); intergenerational oral and written communications (70.1%); community, social and civic life (45.8%); volunteering and jobs (35.4%); and family life (29.9%). Elders transmit traditional knowledge, strengthen social cohesion, and help to develop positive attitudes such as reciprocity. Their actions favour disease prevention and health promotion, as including traditional approaches increases the acceptability of health and social services. CONCLUSION: This scoping review highlights the need for longitudinal studies with mixed-method designs involving Indigenous communities at all stages of the research to deepen understanding of the contributions of Indigenous elders to individual and community wellness.

Location Description: 

Quebec (Canada)