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Care of older relatives in Nigeria

Updated: May 1, 2022

It was always exciting going to the village as a child. I spent many hours moving between the houses of my various grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins. My maternal grandfather had seven wives, so there was never a dull moment. We were related to everyone, and everyone was related to us.

Things have changed over the years and continue to change as people migrate out of the villages searching for greener pastures.

There is hardly anyone left in the villages now. Many compounds are empty. The last time I visited my maternal compound, I met a tenant. Can you beat that? Everyone else had either died or moved to the big city, searching for bigger dreams and only visiting the village on special occasions.

In recent years, many stories have emerged of older people living alone in villages and having to fend for themselves. Many families are struggling with providing adequate care arrangements for their ailing parents/grandparents and loved ones who have been left behind in the village.

Research by Social Work in Public Health (24 Sep 2020) states that “Nigeria has no functional national policy on the care and welfare of older persons. Changing demographics in Nigeria, in addition to the breakdown of the family structure and absence of a social security system, present unique challenges to the elderly in Nigeria”.

Believe it or not, Nigeria has a Senior Citizen Centre Bill, which was signed on 26th January 2018 by President Buhari. However, its implementation has been snail's pace since signing into law.

The recently approved Nigerian National Policy on Aging describes a senior citizen as someone over 60. This description aligns with the UN "older person" eligibility criteria (UN, 2001 in WH0, 2002). This cohort makes up 3% of the population or 14.9million (Nigerian Living Standard Survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2019).

The present challenges of growing old in Nigeria have been outlined below (Jennifer H. Mike - lecture titled “ Nurturing a Positively Sensitive and Inclusive Society: A Framework for the Protection of Older Persons in Nigeria”)

• Social Isolation

• Perception of older people as physically and mentally unfit

• Loneliness and difficulty in adjusting to retirement,

• Lack of meaningful activity leading to disenchantment

• Homelessness

• Poverty is usually due to delays in payment of gratuity and pension.

• Abuse – including financial, physical and psychological abuse of elderly people

• Rules, Policies, Procedures do not cater for their rights

• Lack of access to appropriate and adequate aged care facilities and health care,

• And denial or rationing of health care.

• Workplace discrimination – older people may face prejudice when applying for jobs, seeking promotions, accessing training or may be harassed in the workplace. Poor living standards and dependency on social security payments or Pensions

• Barriers to accessing government services

• Labelled witches, limitations and lack of opportunities to participate in community/public life.

We all know of a grandma/pa or parent who has been airlifted abroad as a way to mitigate some of the challenges outlined above. An article by the Older persons and migration (April 2022) highlights the notable increase in the rise of older migrants abroad. Older migrants comprise an estimated 34.3million or 12.2 per cent of the International migrant stock at mid-year 2020 (UN DESA, 2020). In addition, female older migrants outnumber male older migrants and are more likely to receive economic help (Margaret Peil; Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 22, No.1)

The question is; If given a choice, where would your loved one prefer to reside?


United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)







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