Initiative to Improve Living Conditions for Hopi Tribe Elders Funded by Kendal Promising Innovations Grant

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Dec. 12, 2016—Kendal Charitable Funds announced today that it has awarded a $25,000 Promising Innovations grant to fund a yearlong project to make Native American elders’ homes safer and healthier. The pilot program will benefit members of the Hopi Tribe, 65 and older, living in Second Mesa, Arizona, roughly 100 miles northwest of Flagstaff. The grant will allow the Native Elder Healthy Home Network program to be offered at no cost to participants.

“Our goal is make the homes of Native American elders’ safer and healthier so they can live out their remaining years in them with a sense of order and control, safety and belonging,” says Mark Hall, Executive Director of the nonprofit Red Feather Development Group. “Kendal’s grant will allow us to train Hopi Community Health Representatives, who then will provide a minimum of 24 Hopi elders and their families with a Home Health and Safety Assessment, educational outreach and Healthy Home Kits. The kits, valued at over $200, include a wide range of materials and information for making a healthier living environment.”

Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Bozeman, Montana, Red Feather serves Native Americans on three reservations — Hopi, Navajo and Northern Cheyenne — to improve housing through repair and weatherizing homes, with a focus on educating residents to be self-sufficient in home repairs.

A Navajo Code Talker veteran of World War II with his wife
A Navajo Code Talker veteran of World War II and his wife. Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in U.S. success in the Pacific during World War II. Navajo marines designed a secret warfare code that foiled expert Japanese code breakers who had managed to crack army and navy codes. Its success lay in the intricacy of the Navajo tongue, which had unique sounds and no symbols or alphabet.

“With this grant, Red Feather will leverage scalable, place-based strategies that honor tribal traditions of enabling elders to age in place,” Jim Dowell, chair of Kendal Charitable Funds, said in announcing the award. “This program has the potential to be replicated among Native American tribes nationwide.”

“Many Hopi homes are what are called rock houses. They are self-built out of local materials,” says Joe Seidenberg, Red Feather’s Flagstaff Programs Director. “We often see moisture and mold issues in them because of the way the roofs are constructed, and we know that elders are especially susceptible to respiratory problems caused by mold.”

Tribal communities have asthma at twice the national average rate, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they have a much higher exposure to environmental pollutants, according to the American Lung Association. And since 60 percent of American Indians 65 and older live below the poverty level, they have few resources to improve their living conditions.

“Through a part of this program that Kendal is now funding, we were assessing the home of 91-year-old lady who relied on a coal stove for heat,” Seidenberg recalls. “We noticed that the venting stack on the stove was installed upside down, which can cause a carbon monoxide leak into the house. That assessment allowed us to make a relatively simple fix that may have prevented a death from carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Tripping hazards are another safety problem often found in the homes of Native American elders. “It’s not uncommon at all for us to enter a home and find torn linoleum tiles, missing tiles or even holes in the floor that pose serious tripping hazards,” Seidenberg says.

Home assessment training
Home assessment training

The effectiveness of the Native Elder Healthy Home Network program will be evaluated based on several metrics, including: the number of cases initiated and completed; the nature and value of home health services and safety repairs implemented; and resources identified to assist with remediation of health hazards. One-on-one interviews will gauge participant satisfaction and help refine the training curriculum, and surveys designed to track the program’s impact on health and wellness will be conducted.

“Having a safe and healthy house is fundamental to being able to age in place,” Hall says. “The impact of this grant will be more far-reaching than just the immediate work we do with Hopi elders. We want to take whatever we learn here with this grant and replicate that to other tribes.”

A panel of leading experts on aging selected Red Feather’s proposal for funding from among 94 letters of intent and 12 finalists from across the nation. Promising Innovation grants provide seed money for the creation of new services that are in keeping with Kendal’s Values and Practices.

“Kendal’s pursuit of better ways to address the unmet needs of older adults, coupled with the generosity of the Janet Comey Foundation, Kendal residents, board members, staff and others outside Kendal, led to the creation of the Lloyd Lewis Promising Innovations grant program,” said Beverly Grove, Executive Director of Kendal Charitable Funds. “Promising Innovations grants provide an opportunity for greater collaboration among those of us who seek to improve the quality of life and care for all older people.”

About Kendal Charitable Funds

Kendal affiliates work together within the Kendal System and with caring people outside of it to transform our culture’s view of aging and of older persons, stressing the potential for fulfillment and continuing contribution during the later stages of life. Kendal Charitable Funds, established in 1989, raises and disburses funds in support of Kendal’s charitable purposes, including many outreach efforts. As a system of not-for-profit communities, programs and services founded on the principles of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Kendal aspires to transform the experience of aging.

In 2007, the Kendal Charitable Funds board approved the creation of the Lloyd Lewis Fund to support advances in serving older adults through the Promising Innovations campaign. The fund and campaign were made possible by a gift of $250,000 from the Janet Comey Foundation, a private foundation established through the estate of former Kendal at Longwood resident Janet Comey. Since then, the Promising Innovations campaign has raised over $500,000 in matching gifts, more than doubling the size of the Lloyd Lewis Fund.