Poverty in Old Age: making old people vulnerable and under increasing dangers

Poverty in Old Age: making old people  vulnerable and under increasing dangers

Old people in Nigeria are vulnerable and under increasing dangers due to neglect and lack of coherent policy for them.

One of our Editors,  BODE DUROJAIYE, writes about the dehumanizing situation being encountered by the senior citizens, especially those in the informal sector.

The dream of every human person is to live a ripe old age.

But the reality in Nigeria looks quite different. The general life expectancy at birth in the country stands by only 44.3 years, and a good proportion of the poor and deprived population grows old before time.

Elderly are usually deemed to be those aged 60 and above, while only about 4.8 percent of the total population is above 60, which are less than seven million people, according to statistics from the Demographic and Health survey figures in Nigeria.

However, there is a growing concern about the threat of poverty facing people in old age. 

The vast majority of older persons having worked in the informal sector has no access to any formal income security, as same applies to today’s working age population.

The insurance-based schemes that presently exist in most states typically cover only the tiny minority of those in the public and large formal private sector.

The concern had been fuelled by visible evidence of growing destitution and begging on the streets among the older people.

Almost all the mainstream poverty reduction policy targets wholly failed to consider older people, but rather focusing exclusively on women, young adults, and children.

Present economic situations in the country further worsening the situation, as the cost of living grow, but the earning still stay low, thus making living conditions unbearable for the working force in the formal sector.

This implies that most working age adults do not have enough to meet their daily needs, and those of their dependants, let alone to invest or save sufficiently for their old age.

Those who manage to save have seen their reserves being used up through inflation, while the climate for investment had been prohibitive for most people.

Defective pension, gratuity management coupled with recently detected large scale frauds had led to severe delays up to several months of pension, and to non-payment of terminal benefits to retirees.

Many have lost their lives as a result of these circumstances.

Indeed, rural areas are characterized by a higher level of poverty and lack of public services compared with urban areas.

Investigations revealed that the older people having loss their vigour are not able to sustain themselves with the little work in the farms, which are mainly based on subsistence agriculture.

The rural –urban migration of younger family members especially young males contribute gravely to the worsening of the situation.

In the absence of such able-bodied youths, labour supply is reduced. 

Consequently, this leads to less production and less income from sales to meet the older people’s subsistence needs. 

The absence of a young labour force demise the aged in the rural areas the physical and moral support which they barely need.

The aged are increasingly left to do all the household chores alone.  In chronic situations which exist in most parts of Oyo, Ogbooso, and Oke-Ogun areas of Oyo State, the younger generation barely returns home to see how their aged parents are farming.

Many old people, it was gathered have died out of such neglect.

It is also uncovered that many older people receive insufficient and sometimes no support from children and kin, thereby being forced to become street beggars.

Recent pathetic incident occurred at Elekara market in the Afijio local government area  of Oyo State, when a 69 year old woman was knocked down by an Okada rider, while trying to cross the ever-busy road.

Eye –witness account said the aged woman had gone to nearby processing cottage industry for the purpose of pending cassava, in order to earn a living.

Though operator of the cottage industry was said to have turned the old woman back, but was later recalled when the aged woman broke into tears and lamenting hunger.

After the day’s work, the old woman whose name was given as Mama Anu-oluwapo “became tired, and after receiving her meager payment crossed the road unconsciously.

The old woman, source said did not die, but was responding to treatment at an undisclosed private hospital.

Scores of these older people, especially women are also fund at social gatherings where they not only beg for alms, but remnants of foods served the invited guests.

They often go with black nylons which they used to pack the remnant foods and take them away to their homes.

A public affairs analyst, Pa Adebiyi Odekanyin, submitted that “since the physical features of the old generation naturally degenerate, and the social coherence of he extended family system is gradually fading, old people are vulnerable and under increasing dangers.”

Pa Odekanyin cautioned that this must be intercepted by concerned actions of governmental policies, and societal actions.

'Government, society and religious organizations must emphasize that the aged need our special care, love and support,” Odekanyin stressed.

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