Indigenous Ageing - Elderly and Their Life Conditions in the Sami Society
Ageing in an indigenous society is a process that is different from the surrounding context. The Sami of northern Sweden have historically been assumed to more often reach old ages compared to the rest of Sweden. The current project will study life expectancy in Sápmi during the era of colonization 1750-1920, by using the Northern Population Data Base at DDB.
Age specific mortality rates applied to specific cohorts is the key variable that is analyzed in relation to factors such as family situation, living conditions, and nourishes. The interpretation will use colonization theory and the cultural perspective in order to understand the mechanisms of ageing in the indigenous context of the Sami. Of great importance is the epidemiologic transition, which we know has shifted the Sami from a negative position with high mortality to a present-day health situation equivalent to the rest of Sweden. A major challenge to the project is to reveal the process of declining mortality in relation to social, political, administrative, and economic changes in the area, and furthermore to understand the position and condition of elderly in a native context. The idea is that the result will have a general value for the understanding of ageing, in indigenous societies that yet not have experienced a similar progress in life-expectancy.
The socio-cultural perspectives relate to quantitative studies of ageing, and our aim is to further improve the multi-disciplinary approach. A unique aspect is the northern dimension that is a major subject of the project. The northern areas have experienced a process of an ageing population that to a great extent is a forerunner to the expected general development. The indigenous people in the area, the Sami, offer a tremendous possibility to include cultural diversity as an analytic tool, and to use the results in an international context of native peoples. Umeå University has a strong position in the process of developing the socio-cultural perspectives in social science and humanities, and has a long tradition of inter-disciplinary collaboration. Moreover, the framework offers unique possibilities for researchers related to the northern dimension. The circumpolar area is of great interest for a wide range of disciplines, and the research agenda is rapidly expanding, including the forthcoming activities within the International Polar Year 2007-2008. The data concerning the Sami in our project is exceptional in an international comparison, and will attract a great interest.