Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of PWNA


 Elders & Residential

Like most of the U.S., rural and remote Native American reservations of the Southwest face the challenge of an aging population. But they also confront special difficulties posed by the damaging effects of poverty and isolation on Elders.

On these Native reservations, Elders have very low incomes, and most live on Social Security alone. Few have access to transportation, roads are rough, and stores are few and far between.

Medical and residential facilities for Elders are typically scarce, under-funded, under-equipped, and often struggle to provide programs to support critical needs such as food, help with daily activities, and transportation.

Senior Nutrition Centers are often forced to sacrifice quality (in the form of fresh produce and meat) for quantity (cheaper pre-packaged and processed foods) at the end of the month when funds are low. The Centers often have to stretch their budgets to feed more and more Elders. All these obstacles make it very difficult for Elders to obtain clothes, shoes, medical supplies and food, or to seek comfort from the company of others. Elders’ minds and bodies suffer as they become inactive and increasingly homebound.

Helping hand far into the community.
The SWIRC Program honors Elders and their place of respect and dignity in traditional Native American culture by reaching out to them with services to help fill the gaps in resources available to this acutely vulnerable population. The helping hand provided through SWIRC’s Elder services often extends far into the community. That’s because many Elders are actively involved in caring for their grandchildren while parents work in towns off the reservation.

The SWIRC Program works through partnerships with established Senior Centers and Elder Nutrition Centers (ENCs) to address a broad range of needs including food, personal care items, and social contact. These Centers are typically the hub of life in the community, and seniors meet there to socialize, stay active, eat one nutritious meal a day, and receive health screenings and care.

SWIRC partners with local community centers to address needs ranging from
health monitoring to nutritious food and contact with caring community members.


Elder Nutrition Centers utilize bulk food items donated by SWIRC, thereby freeing up funds so they can purchase meat, dairy items, and fresh produce. SWIRC also donates fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. As a result, ENCs are able to feed more Elders, and feed them higher-quality, balanced meals.

Personal care items.
SWIRC incorporates Elder Care bags into many of its services. These Elder Care bags contain first aid kits, lotions, and other personal care items that seem trivial to many but are beyond the financial reach of many Elders on reservations. SWIRC works with Program Partners to deliver to Community Health Representatives, who in turn distribute these goods when they check in on Elders to monitor their vital signs and general health.

Social contact.
Using materials provided through the SWIRC Program, Senior Centers offer activities that encourage seniors to stay more active by socializing, exercising, and using their minds.

For example, Elders of the Jemez, New Mexico Pueblo Reservation once spent countless hours making beautiful Christmas stockings for children of the reservation. SWIRC’s Jemez Pueblo Program Partner points out that the Elders came early and stayed late to work on the stockings, using fabric, trims and lace supplied by SWIRC. By participating in activities such as this, where they make items that are genuinely needed and appreciated by others, Elders feel needed and valued, and their self-esteem is raised.

SWIRC Elder services help resource-poor communities honor and care for their Elders.

Shoes, clothes and healthy living.
Because ENCs and Senior Centers have direct access to Elders, SWIRC works through these centers to also deliver desperately-needed goods such as blankets, medical supplies, and clothing and shoes. Using incentives donated by SWIRC, ENCs and Senior Centers expand their programming in exercise and health education, where Elders and others learn the importance of exercise and good nutrition to prevent health problems and diseases; and are taught how to best manage existing health problems they may have. More Elders are motivated to participate in these activities, and in doing so receive items they need but are unable to purchase.

Residential facilities (nursing homes, dormitories for school aged children, domestic violence and youth shelters) can receive personal care products for residents and other supplies that help the facility operate, such as cleaning supplies, bedding, and household items.

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