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The Journal of Aging in Emerging Economies December, 2016 


Social Capital and Sustainable Livelihood of Retirees in Akoka Community, Lagos State, Nigeria

Olusegun TEMILOLA, Ph.D.                                   

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Social Sciences,

University of Lagos, Nigeria



‘Bola AMAIKE, Ph.D.

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Social Sciences,

University of Lagos, Nigeria



In the light of perennial failure of the Nigerian government to meet its statutory obligations to its teeming workers evident in grossly inadequate retirement benefits (gratuity and monthly pensions), salaries and emoluments, it is imperative to interrogate the nexus between social capital and livelihood. The challenge is further exacerbated by the recent inability of most State governments in Nigeria to pay salaries to their work force despite bail out from the Federal government. In the face of the foregoing, workers' means of livelihoods remain inadequate and unpredictable leading to vulnerabilities and precarious living conditions. Invariably, the living conditions of the general population who often depend on the formal sector workers for their livelihoods are also compromised. However, retirees who are mostly at the receiving end are those with neither regular pensions nor allowances. They are often forced to look up to the informal sector (families, friends, neighbors and associations) for survival. Therefore, social capital plays a pivotal role in ensuring that retirees are able to meet their basic needs. This study examined the interplay between social capital and sustainable livelihood of retirees in Akoka Community in Yaba Local Council Development Area, Lagos State, Nigeria. With the aid of purposive sampling method, 20 retirees were selected as representative sample for the exploratory study. The study investigated the composition, contexts and understanding of social capital as a determinant of means of livelihood among the elderly. Findings indicate that social capital was a viable alternative source of livelihood with retirees without informal support reporting less access to sustainable livelihood. Political economy and social exchange theories were adopted as theoretical tools. The study concluded with pragmatic recommendations that can enhance sustainable livelihood and improve the living conditions of retirees especially in the face of dwindling resources in the country.

Keywords: Social capital, Retirees, Older people, Welfare and Livelihood


À la lumière de l'échec pérenne du gouvernement nigérian de respecter ses obligations légales à ses travailleurs grouillant évidentes dans les prestations de retraite très insuffisants (gratuité et pensions mensuelles), les salaires et émoluments, il est impératif d'interroger le lien entre le capital social et des moyens de subsistance. Le défi est encore aggravé par l'incapacité récente de la plupart des gouvernements de l'Etat au Nigeria pour payer les salaires à leur force de travail en dépit de renflouement du gouvernement fédéral. Face à ce qui précède, les moyens de subsistance des travailleurs demeurent insuffisants et conduisant imprévisibles aux vulnérabilités et aux conditions de vie précaires. Invariablement, les conditions de vie de la population en général qui dépendent souvent sur les travailleurs du secteur formel pour leurs moyens d'existence sont également compromises. Cependant, les retraités qui sont pour la plupart à l'extrémité de réception sont ceux avec ni pensions régulières ni indemnités. Ils sont souvent contraints de rechercher dans le secteur informel (familles, amis, voisins et associations) pour la survie. Par conséquent, le capital social joue un rôle essentiel pour assurer que les retraités sont en mesure de satisfaire leurs besoins fondamentaux. Cette étude a examiné l'interaction entre le capital social et des moyens de subsistance durable des retraités Akoka Communauté dans la zone Yaba Local Développent Council, l'Etat de Lagos, au Nigeria. Avec l'aide de la méthode d'échantillonnage téléologique, 20 retraités ont été choisis comme échantillon représentatif pour l'étude exploratoire. L'étude a examiné la composition, les contextes et la compréhension du capital social comme déterminant de moyens de subsistance chez les personnes âgées. Les résultats indiquent que le capital social était une alternative source viable de subsistance avec les retraités sans soutien informel ayant déclaré moins accès aux moyens de subsistance durables. Économie politique et sociale change théories sont adoptées comme des outils théoriques. L'étude a conclu avec des recommandations pragmatiques qui peuvent améliorer des moyens de subsistance durables et d'améliorer les conditions de vie des retraités en particulier face à la diminution des ressources dans le pays.

Mots-clés: le capital social, les retraités, les personnes âgées, bien-être et de moyens d'existence



Worldwide, both the number and proportion of people aged 60 years and over are increasing, however at different rates in different parts or regions of the world. This phenomenon of population aging has been on for many decades in the developed countries of Europe and North America; but it is relatively recent in the middle income countries and at incipient stage in the developing countries of Africa and Asia (UNFPA & HAI, 2012; Novak, 2012). According to Waite (2004), the number of older people rose more than threefold since 1950, from approximately 130 million to 419 million in 2000, with their share of the population increasing from 4 per cent to 7 per cent during the period. Another estimate indicates that nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population or over 600 million persons are over the age of 60 years and this is expected to double by 2050. About two-thirds of these 600 million persons live in developing countries such as Nigeria where there is no comprehensive social security in old age (Schwarz, 2003).

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the most populous countries in the world. The 2006 population census recorded about 140 million Nigerians, with a population growth rate of 3.2 per cent per annum (NPC, 2006). It is projected that the population will increase to 169.9 million in 2012 and 187 million by 2015 (NPC, 2015). This indicates that Nigeria has a youthful population.  More than a decade earlier, the 1991 population census reported that about 44 per cent of the population was under the age of 15 years; adolescents (ages 10–19) made up 23 percent of the population, while young people (ages 10– 24) accounted for about 32 per cent of the population (NPPSD, 2004). This may have informed the complacent attitude of Nigerian government and policy makers towards aging issues culminating in lack of definite policy on aging. However, evidence indicates that there are prospects for quantum leap growth in the rate and proportion of the elderly population in Nigeria.

More importantly, aging in developing countries like Nigeria is occurring against a backdrop of dwindling financial resources, poor social support, and no or very limited formal arrangement for the support of the elderly as well as lack of or very weak infrastructure to address emerging issues in old age care and support. This is in contrast to developed countries which have gradual growth in population aging with almost resolved issues on infrastructure, maternal and infant mortality (Togonu-Bickersteth and Akinyemi, 2014).

In contemporary Nigeria, like in many sub-Saharan African societies, social capital, otherwise known as social networks, presents veritable special support for the vulnerable elderly who are usually poor and neglected. Social capital refers to the collective value of all "social networks" and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other which is often rooted in the "norms of reciprocity". Social capital has three varieties namely bonds, bridges and linkages with and among people in the society. In other words, it is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Social capital is an important characteristic of a community and is one of the components of the asset pentagon of the sustainable livelihood framework. Put differently, social capital can be defined broadly as the resources available to individual elderly and groups of elderly through their social connections to their communities.

Livelihood implies the way someone earns money and resources in order to live. It also means the current conditions of individuals and households and the ways or means through which they reproduce themselves. Some of the socio-economic factors that may impact the livelihoods of the elderly include relative wealth, poverty, age, gender, control of or access to resources and ownership of property or assets. Nevertheless, the livelihoods of older people are better enhanced by measures aimed at strengthening their capacities to contribute to their well-being and livelihood of their households and families.

Statement of the Problem

In recent years, studies have shown that the number of children per woman is falling gradually in Nigeria while the cost of children’s investment is increasing (Akinyemi, 2005). With decreasing number of children, older people have fewer adult children to take care of them in old age. Furthermore, a large number of educated children are currently unemployed (Omololu, 1990) or when employed, they migrate to urban centers far from where the elderly live, hence, unable to discharge their filial responsibilities to their elderly parents. In the face of high unemployment among young adults, high rate of inflation and government’s insensitivity, the normative expectation of the elderly that they would be catered for in the twilight of their lives by their adult children/relations is greatly threatened and doubtful (Akinyemi, 2005; Eboiyehi 2008).

Similarly, young people’s quest for educational and employment opportunities or advancements in urban areas has led to massive out-migration of young family members (including women who are the primary caregivers of the elderly). As more people move to cities or overseas, the elderly lose their hitherto traditional family support base and social networks which make them increasingly at risk of marginalization and deprivation at the most delicate period of their lives. This is coupled with the fact that there is a drastic drop in the financial and material resources remitted by migrant children who themselves are struggling to meet their own basic needs and those of their immediate family and elderly parents. This view is corroborated by the then Minister of Health, Professor Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu, who in a statement to commemorate the World Health Day in 2012 admitted inter alia, that:

There is low awareness of the challenges and needs of the elderly people in Nigeria.
This is due to the fact that they constitute a relatively small proportion of the population.
In the presence of competing health needs, they are relegated to the background.
Elderly people are seriously threatened by poverty, wants and needs, deprivation,
abuse, ill health, social exclusion, loneliness and suffering among others (This Day Live, 2013).

In addition, one of the most significant realities of population dynamics in the last decade relates to increasing proportion of older people in the population, the challenge of aging and its associated problems (Ajomale, 2007). Although aging issues have received considerable research and policy attention in high income countries where population aging has existed for many years with capacity existing to deal with its social, economic, nutritional and psychological demands (Lucchetti, Corsonello and Gattaceca, 2008), the commentaries in developing countries are totally different. For low income countries, however, population aging occupies a marginal space in population studies and policy circle. The consequence of such neglect of older persons in African countries is that their concerns are not seriously addressed, while other specific well-being needs continue to remain unmet (National Research Council, 2006).

This challenge is further compounded by economic difficulties occasioned by youth unemployment, excruciating poverty, inflation, urbanization and migration. Hence, it is increasingly difficult for many families and adult children to manage their own families of procreation let alone cater for their aging parents. The inability of government to meet its statutory obligation of regular payment of pensions to its retired workforce, inadequate or lack of social and health services to cater for the needs of an aging population, as well as a predominantly rural agrarian population all pose new threats to sustainable livelihood and development in Nigeria. Therefore, older people’s lives are often characterized by growing inadequacies in customary family supports, social exclusion and non-existent social security which render them vulnerable to poverty, inequality and diseases. This is because an increase in the numbers of older people inevitably brings about an increase in the range and intensity of their problems and needs in Nigeria.

Objectives of the study

The main objective of the study is to interrogate the nexus between social capital and sustainable livelihood among Nigerian retirees in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria.

Specifically, the study seeks to

  1. Examine the characteristics of retirees in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos State.
  2. Assess the nature and forms of social capital available to retirees in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos State.
  3. Examine the relationship between social capital and sustainable livelihood among retirees in Akoka, Lagos State.
  4. Suggest recommendations to address the challenge of old age income security in Lagos State.

Literature Review

Older people constitute the poorest group in the Nigerian society (Amaike, 2011). Unlike children, youth and women who received high profile in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance, the elderly tend not to be considered as a specific group in terms of poverty reduction policies and programmes. However, any attempt to reduce the incidence and prevalence of poverty and hunger by 2030 without seriously considering older people in the SDGs programme is seriously flawed. Nigeria currently has the highest older people’s population in Africa (DESA, 2011). With the largest population in Africa and the seventh in the world, it is estimated that by the year 2025, the population of Nigerians aged 60 and above will constitute 6 percent of the entire population (See Table 1). This estimated population is definitely higher than the populations of so many countries in Africa or the world at large. The objective of this study therefore is to examine the interplay between social capital and sustainable livelihood of retirees in Akoka Community in Yaba Local Council Development Area, Lagos State, Nigeria.




Table 1: Percentage Projected Population of Elderly in Africa, West Africa and Nigeria 2005- 2050

Population 60 Years Plus











West Africa










Source: UN Population Division (2005) and UNFPA Report on the ageing in the 21st century.

As it can be seen from the above table, there is the potential for increase in the rate of growth of the aging population in Africa and Nigeria in particular. This will significantly change the age structure of the Nigerian population and alter its population dynamics greatly. In the coming years, the aging population is expected to increase in numbers and the life expectancy rate will gradually increase with significant social and economic impacts on individuals and households. Therefore, aging will constitute an increasing demographic challenge to Nigeria for which policy measures are essential (Temilola, 2010).

Sustainable Livelihood and Well-being in Later Life: the Role of Social Capital

Social capital comprises the resources that are available to the elderly or groups of elderly through social contacts, connections and social relations with significant others. With access to social capital, older people are able to maintain productive, independent and fulfilling lives which culminate in successful aging. The importance of sustainable livelihood in enhancing successful ageing cannot be overemphasized because with social capital, older people are more likely to have sustainable livelihood with which they can maintain good quality of life in later life. Social capital is pivotal to well-being in later life in at least two ways. First, as Nigerian population ages, the extent and levels of social capital available to the retirees are on the decline. This is largely due to high rates of youth unemployment, inactivity of the elderly and labor market participation of women among others (Cannuscio, Block and Kawachi, 2003).

This underscores the importance of social capital as a factor that can reduce the incidence and prevalence of poverty and destitution in old age. Second, Nigerian retirees are at greater risk of losing critical social support systems and social ties as they age, thus making them more vulnerable and dependent on inadequate support systems in their communities. The elderly are not just recipients of social capital in the community but they also contribute their own quota towards the smooth running of their communities. Generally, the availability of social capital in form of civic engagement, neighborliness and social trust is on the decline in many countries in the world. Nigeria is not an exception. Thus, there is need to address the gaps in social capital and rebuild the lost grounds in this area by translating a sense of filial piety into social capital and tangible resources (gains) that can promote socio-economic well-being in later life (Novak, 2012).

Social capital has basic characteristics which include the following:

i.                    Social capital is a form of public good provided by individuals, groups and community to assist the elderly to maintain their livelihood and quality of life.

ii.                  The responsibilities and benefits of social capital are widely shared by members of the society especially adult children and significant others (relations, friends and neighbors).

iii.                The collective dimension of social capital distinguishes it from other social support strategies such as social networks and social support. Social capital is accessible to the elderly by just being a member of the society that is rich in social connections and communal supports.

iv.                Social capital provides social leverage for vulnerable members of the society who may have been forced to live in precarious situations without such supports. For instance, childless or destitute elderly may receive support or services that can promote their health and well-being while living in their communities.

v.                  Social capital can be measured through specific or proxy indicators such as extent of civic engagement or citizens’ participation, levels of trust among citizens and degree of mutual aid in the community which promote togetherness and connectedness.

   To Ramlagan, et al (2013), five principal characteristics are germane to social capital, these include:

i.                    Community networks, voluntary, state, personal networks and density.

ii.                  Civic engagement, participation and use of civic networks.

iii.                Local civic identity-sense of belonging, solidarity and equality with other members;

iv.                Reciprocity and norms of cooperation, a sense of obligation to help other people and build confidence in return for assistance.

v.                  Trust in the community.

Therefore, social capital is the nature and extent of networks available to the elderly through which they engage in social exchange and participate in their communities as both recipients and contributors to common wealth (social capital).  In essence, social capital ‘enables individuals to gain access to resources such as ideas, information, money, services as well as favors and have accurate expectations regarding the behavior of others by virtue of their participation in relationships that are themselves the products of networks of associations’ (Szreter and Woolcock, 2004: 654). From the foregoing, the well-being of Nigerian elderly can be improved by expanding the quality and quantum of bonding social capital (through friends, family and neighbors) and bridging social capital (trusting relationships across diverse social and demographic groups).

Theoretical Perspectives

Marxian Political Economy Theory

This study is anchored on two major theories of aging. The first one is on Marxian political economy theory. Karl Marx expounded political economy theory in 1868 that it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being but on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness. As a framework, political economy emphasizes the crucial importance of material conditions in understanding and explaining social existence and in finding solutions to the problems of man. It assumes that human behavior is motivated by the survival and domineering instincts in man. Such instincts are exhibited primarily in the economic and political spheres of life, among others. Furthermore, political economy theory argues that all aspects of social life namely politics, law, social relations, housing, belief system and the economy are all interrelated and interdependent but that the economic sphere serves as the determinant of the character of the politics, law and social relations of any society. This is not surprising since survival is the most basic instinct of man, after which humans attempt other things (Olatunji, 2012).

From the foregoing, it is argued that the plight of the Nigerian elderly is a result of the government’s failure to provide their basic needs (housing, health, adequate feeding, etc) as entrenched in Section 16 (2) (d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By extension, the elderly are also excluded from gaining access to most resources that can make life meaningful by marginalizing them from the mainstream society. This is closely linked to the negative social and personal attitudes that construe aging as a state of diminished capacities. This negative attitude (ageism) is translated into prejudice, rejection, isolation, neglect, victimization, and disempowerment of older people. Unfortunately, the government that should protect the elderly also fails to honor the provision of  basic necessities for the elderly. State policies on the welfare of the elderly in Nigeria including the Pension Act (2004/2014), primarily targeting workers in the formal sector and Old People’s Act (2009) are grossly inadequate and unpublicized with many states in Nigeria yet to implement these statutory obligations to the elderly. The constitutional provisions and welfare policies for older citizens suggest the willingness by the Nigerian government to provide welfare package for older citizens, but these are yet to be felt or implemented in the country.

In terms of criticisms, Marx did not make the distinction between exchange value and value. The development of this important theoretical distinction is one of the most important aspects in discussing social capital. Since we know that a commodity has a use-value and an exchange value. The use-value of a commodity falls outside of the realm of political economy except in that it is a bearer of exchange value. Why? The use-value does not bear the mark of the social relations of production. It cannot tell that an object is a commodity by examining its use-value. The use-value is limited by the particular properties of the commodity, and is not a universal quality that can be quantified or compared with other use values in any meaningful economic sense.

Social Exchange Theory

The second relevant theoretical orientation is the social exchange, which can be traced to the works of George Homans (1961) and Peter Blau (1964). Social exchange theory looks at social behavior as an exchange of activity, tangible or intangible and less rewarding or costly between at least two persons (Homans, 1961). It deals with the anticipated rewards associated with interpersonal relationships arising from the micro approach. He had a shift from this micro point of analysis (informal group relationship) to a complex organizational level (formal group).

According to Homans(1961), the main sociological purpose of studying processes of face-to-face interactions is to lay the foundation for an understanding of the social structures that evolve and the emergent social forces that characterize their development. Moreover, Bengtson and Down (1981) asserted that the reason for decreased interaction between the elderly and the younger generations relative to other age groups is the fact that the elderly have fewer resources to offer in the course of social exchange. Therefore, they have fewer resources to bring to the table of exchange because of their age long deprivations compounded by poverty in old age. This undermines the social capital available to the elderly especially in the face of a shift in roles, skills and resources as a result of advancing age. Amaike (2009) stated the three underlying assumptions associated with this social exchange. First is that various actors bring resources to the interaction which may not necessarily be material and often times unequal. Secondly, the actors will continue with interactions or exchanges only if on the long run the benefits are greater than costs and in the absence of better alternatives. Thirdly, that exchanges are governed by norms of reciprocity, that is, when we give something it is our hope (expectation) that something of equal or more value will be given back to us.

However, the reverse may be the case for most poor elderly who are without the required social capital from the family and the State but forced to eke out a living on their own. Clearly, social capital is a critical resource that will not only promote the well-being of the elderly but also their contributions to the family and the society. Without adequate and valuable social resources, interaction with the elderly is considered ‘unprofitable’ and hence less attractive to younger generations. This negative assessment of older people as less profitable social actors may discourage social exchange and limit their access to social capital with which they can improve livelihood and well-being. Thus, without social capital, the livelihood of older people will be compromised rather than sustained in later life.

The first criticism is that social exchange theory has not been extensively tested. The difficulty with social exchange is that its central concepts—costs and rewards—are not clearly defined.  It becomes impossible to make an operational distinction between what people value, what they perceive as rewarding, and how they behave. Rewards, values, and actions appear to be defined in terms of each other. Secondly, critics wonder if people are really as self-interested as social exchange theory assumes. It is argued that applying a market place mentality to the understanding of relational life greatly misrepresents what goes on in relationships and that it is wrong to think about personal relationships in the same way that we think about business transactions, like buying a house or a car.  The third criticism suggests that social exchange theory fails to explain the importance of group solidarity in its emphasis on individual need fulfillment. It is argued that the exchange framework can be viewed as valuing the separative self to the extent that rationality and self-interest are emphasized.

Research Methods

Study Area

The study was conducted in Akoka community, situated in Yaba Local council development area with its secretariat at 198, Herbert Macaulay Street, Yaba. It was carved out of the old Lagos Mainland local government which was created in 1977 as a separate Local government area following the national reform of Local governments in September 1976. Lagos Mainland was carved out of Lagos city council which administered the Lagos Metropolitan city; this consisted of Lagos Island and Lagos Mainland. So, with the creation of three more Local government areas on 27 August 1991, the former Lagos Mainland was re-constituted with Surulere carved out of it. Yaba Local council Development area is one of the Thirty Seven (37) Local council Development areas which was carved out of Lagos Mainland local government area by the administration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu after the State Assembly passed a law creating new local council Development areas. The present Yaba local council area is situated in an urban setting; some parts however mirrored rural features and these areas are simply referred to as the blighted areas like Makoko and Iwaya. Nonetheless, Yaba Local council development area is a commercial nerve centre for many people regardless of their political and cultural affiliations (Wikipedia, 2016).

Study Population

The study focused on Nigerian older citizens who were resident in Akoka community. These respondents included retired workers, who had worked either in the public or private organizations and had put in at least 35 years of service or retired on the basis of age (60 years if civil servants or 65 years if retired academic staff and 70 years if retired Professors and Justices). The participants were at least 60 years old, who had worked in any part of the country and lived in their abode at the time of the study for not less than five years. This exploratory study utilized key informant interviews to profile the existing social support systems and social capital available to older people in their communities and which invariably influenced their ageing experiences and life situations.

Sample Design

The research design was non-experimental. The study was also idiographic, qualitative and heuristic in nature. A standard in-depth interview (IDI) guide was designed and utilized to gather information from the key informants. Responses were recorded verbatim and tape was recorded with the consent of the participants. The responses of the informants were analyzed and interpreted using content analysis technique. Primary data were therefore qualitative and secondary data were collected through literature and desk reviews.

Sampling Technique and Sample Size

With the aid of purposive sampling technique, twenty (20) retirees were covered in this the study spread across the length and breadth of Akoka community in different streets/areas. Community entry process was strategic and systematic and this was necessary for a largely homogenous community like Akoka with the help of a resident in the study area, who was known and very knowledgeable about the contours and geography of the area. This gave the needed background working knowledge of the environment.

Findings and Discussion

In-depth Interview was administered on the participants, having secured their consent, to bear their minds on the relationship between social capital (i.e. supports from family, friends and community, etc) and their sustainable means of livelihood. These are some of the study findings.

Socio-economic and demographic characteristics of retirees

Table 2 presents the description of the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the respondents. Their ages ranged from 60 to 80+ years with more involvement of male participants because of their availability at the time of conducting this study. Majority of them claimed to be Christians with primary level of education. There were more Yorubas and married participants but they were not currently working as at the time of the study. In addition, many respondents were in monogamous families with access and robust relationships with younger family members.

Table 2: Socio-economic and Demographic Characteristics of the respondents



Counts  N = 20

Percentage (100%)


60 – 65 years




66 – 70 years




71 – 75 years




76 – 80 years




81 years and older











Level of Education

Primary or less




Secondary school completed




Tertiary School



Religious Affiliations












Marital Status












Ethnic groups








Employment status





Not working



Living arrangement





With spouse or children




With adult children







Number of children

1 – 2




3 -  4




5 or more



Family type









Social Capital and Livelihood of the Elderly

The participants recollected their experiences in terms of social capital and through content analysis of their various responses. In summary, five forms of social capital emerged, namely:

i.                    Financial support or assistance,

ii.                  Material support,

iii.                Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) support,

iv.                Medical care, and

v.                  Visitation.


Financial support

Some of the male participants mentioned that they needed support for their daily upkeep since they were not engaged in any formal employment. The financial support did not only come from their adult children but also other people they were involved with such as friends and neighbors. Of a particular reference was the case of a man who expressed his needs as follows:

My children especially the first two that are working, they send me monthly allowances that I use to feed very well now that I am getting older and I use it to drink and buy things that I need. Although what is coming is not adequate but they (the children) are doing their best (Mr. A., 67 years).

Material support

In addition, the female participants mostly stated that material care and support were given to them which included foodstuffs, clothes, shoes, bags and buckets among other things.

The ethnic association and church I belong to usually give those of us who are elders material support such as clothes to wear to special events, foodstuffs and accommodation for those who are homeless or cannot pay their rent. Last year, I did not buy any foodstuffs and clothes (Mrs. D., 65 years).

Activities of daily living (ADLs) support

Some of the participants who were aged 76 years and above suffered some forms of ADLs limitations and hence they needed support in order to live independently.

Most times I need help to move around this neighborhood for lack of strength
and old age. My care giver living with me helps me to get up and dress on (a) daily basis because I cannot do all that by myself again
(Mrs. B., 76 years).

Medical care

Many of the participants seemed to benefit from the associations they belonged to whether at the level of the individual or community.

We have medical people in my associations, so they regularly give us medicine to take and
advise us on what to eat and not to eat. In case of crisis or emergency, I have phone numbers to call to assist me, even to go the clinic because we the elders in my church have free access to medical services (
Mr. K., 70 years).


Similarly, some of the participants seemed to gain immensely from informal social support (social capital) especially from the visitations of their children, members of their immediate family, friends and extended family.

I would have since died if not for members of my association. They assisted by regular visits and at times, they send their children to visit and assist me. Whenever they visit, we talk about almost everything – politics, economy and society. Some of them help me to wash my clothes, cook food for me and we share jokes together in the night before bed time (Mrs. R., 72 years).

Benefits of social capital can be material, instrumental or emotional depending on the need and peculiarity of the care recipients, the elderly. Although social capital is achieved through investment in social relationships, its benefits are translated into social and economic gains for the individuals. With access to social capital, livelihood is enhanced and sustained over the life course especially in later life. Demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and education were strong determinants of access to social capital. Availability of adult children and communal support influenced the dimensions and forms of social capital in later life. Thus, there is an uneven distribution of social capital among older retirees in Akoka, Lagos State based on differences in socio-demographic characteristics. More efforts are required to ascertain the effects of socio-demographic characteristics of Nigerian retirees on access and accumulation of social capital.

Social capital enables retirees to have positive outcomes such as better living conditions and well-being by building strong networks that facilitate access to material resources and human resource through a sense of connectedness with the community. This sense of belonging is critical to older people in improving their life expectancy and social relevance because older people experience decreasing social interaction as they age. Social capital helps to mitigate against social isolation and vulnerabilities that lead to illness, depression or death.

Interaction with other members of the society which is a core concept in social capital is an important ingredient in promoting successful and active ageing. Older people with extensive social connections and networks with diverse resources are more likely to be more engaged and productive in later life which ultimately makes them happier and more satisfied (Imandoust, 2011). For a number of Nigerian retirees, their access to social capital and sustainable livelihood is predicated on their earlier relationships with other people in the society. 

Nature and quality of social capital are dependent on certain factors such as social networks, norms of reciprocity and sense of trustworthiness of the retirees. It is therefore a pre-defining predictor of livelihood and well-being in retirement.    


The study concludes that social capital is an important characteristic of a community. It is also a form of public good that is provided by a group or community and consequently, the benefits of social capital are more widely shared by members of the community. Social capital promotes access to resources and invariably well-being of older people through a sense of connection with people and groups in their communities.


  • The livelihood perspective should take the centre stage in active and successful ageing. The perspective ensures that public policy is sensitive to questions of multiple dependency in terms of poverty, elderly headed households, especially those who still have their wives and young children living with them. The perspective ensures that policy planners are sensitive to the fact that households must survive somehow in countries where social security for older people is nonexistent or where old age pension is limited to employees in the formal sector.
  • Social capital as an asset must be explored and strengthened in order to promote graceful ageing and ageing in place in Nigeria.
  • There is need to integrate the geriatric care management in Nigeria. Care and support of older people should not be left to the ‘whims and caprices’ of the family and the society alone. Effective coordination of both formal and informal care system is imperative in order to harness the benefits inherent in social capital in sustaining livelihood and improving well-being in later life.
  • Concerted efforts (policies and programmes) must be devoted towards strengthening African social support systems which will reduce the prevalence of old age deprivation and destitution.  



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