The number and relative proportion of older Native people in Canada are both increasing rapidly. So also is a social problems discourse asserting that informal care of older Native people by family and kin is traditional, and highly appropriate today. However, neither this discourse nor previous research satisfactorily address the informal care requirements of older Native people nor the gendered implications that high levels of informal care provision may have for Native caregivers. Informal care is provided to Canada's non-Native elderly people primarily by resident wives and non-resident daughters, and secondarily by husbands and sons. Data from the pan-provincial Alberta Native Seniors Study demonstrate that Native people aged 50 or more have comparatively high overall care requirements. Older Native Albertans are poor, and make extensive use of some government income support programmes. They also make moderate use of medical services. Extensive dependence on informal care, institutional barriers and local service unavailability lead Native seniors to under-utilise other formal programmes aimed generically at the older provincial population. Native seniors are much more likely to live with kin than are other Canadians. Informal care appears equally available to older women and men, and is provided chiefly by resident daughters, sons and spouses, and by non-resident daughters, sisters and sons. Extensive elderly caregiving requirements may impose a growing, double burden on many, who are also providing care for dependent children. Without further support, current and future requirements may significantly limit the options of caregiving women and men.
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