DATE:                 JULY 12, 2011



TIME:                  10: 00 A.M





  1. Introduction to population ageing in Nigeria
  2. Demographic trends in ageing:

(a) Population size

(b) Age – Sex Composition

(c)  Marital status.

  1. Socio-Economic situation of ageing in Nigeria:

(a) Older population in the labour force

(b) Living arrangement of the elderly

(c)  Literacy and educational attainment of the elderly

(d) Disability among the elderly

(e) Age dependency ratio

  1. Conclusions and Recommendations




It gives me great pleasure to be invited to present this paper on Demographic Trends and the Socio-Economic situation of Ageing in Nigeria.

Let me begin by expressing my profound appreciation to the National Universities Commission, not only for extending this invitation to the National Population Commission, but for this seminar on ageing in Nigeria. As a research organization that has been involved in the generation of statistical information on the Nigerian population over the years and the monitoring of demographic trends, we are highly conscious and concerned about population ageing and what it portends for the socio-economic development of our country. As would be seen later, ageing is a population issue that must be addressed in much the same way as other population related issues like family planning, maternal and infant mortality, HIV/AIDS and literacy etc. A seminar on capacity building and research for workforce development that discusses ageing in Nigeria is therefore timely and crucial. It is on this premise that I wish to commend the National Universities Commission(NUC) for its foresight and being proactive in recognizing the need to develop a framework and build the capacity that will ultimately manage population ageing in Nigeria.

As mentioned earlier, my task is to speak on” Demographic Trends and the Socio-Economic situation of Ageing in Nigeria “under the following sub themes:

A)   Conceptual framework and operational definitions

B)   Demographic trends that influence population ageing

C)   Socio-Economic situation of ageing in Nigeria

D)   Conclusions and Recommendations.



The process of population ageing is already visible in most countries of the world, and population in developing countries are now ageing, and often at a much faster rate than those in developed countries. This fact is beginning to dawn on us all and have begun to pose challenges to development and planning in our country.

The challenge lies in the fact that until recently, Nigerian academics and policy makers paid very little attention to the issue of ageing in the country. Also, ageing is a silent process, whose consequences are difficult to anticipate (NPC,2004). It is a new process especially in developing societies, for which there is no historical antecedent.

At this point, it will be appropriate to define what is ageing. With regards to humans, it can be described as a process in which individuals move from birth to death. In reality, however, the concept of “old person” applies to adult who appear to be well on in accumulated number of years on earth and who show evidence of possessing a combination of those attributes that the society associates with old age. Those attributes may be grayness of hair, texture of the skin, number and ages of children and grandchildren, possession of a participation corpus of knowledge and so on (Togonu-Bickersteth, 2001).

Population aging can be defined as a process in which older persons become a proportionally larger share of the total population; simply put, the population is “getting older”. This process has been well established in developed countries, while it is just becoming apparent in developing countries as well.

This definition is ever more appropriate at this point, because in most developing societies, chronological age is an alien concept, and the official recording of date of births is not a common practice. Rather, what is in practice is the use of functional age, where people take on status roles and are considered old and such people also exhibit morbidity profile usually associated with aged persons. The United Nations and the World Assembly on Ageing have considered all persons 60 years and above as “aged”. In this paper, therefore, people within this category shall be considered as such.

The “elderly“ are those 60 years and over, the “ young old” are those 60-74 years, the “aged” are those 75 years and above, while the “oldest old” are those 80 years and over. In industrialized countries, the term “oldest old” refers to people aged 85 and over, while in developing countries, where life expectancy on the average is lower, the term commonly refers to people aged 80 and over.

Various published demographic projections indicate that the number or proportion of elderly persons in Nigeria is on the increase. According to the 1991 Population Census, there were 4,598,114 persons aged 60 and above in Nigeria. This was about 5.2 percent of the total national population of 88,992,220. The number of the elderly is projected to have increased to around 5 million by the year 2000 (NPC, 1998: 414). In the 2006 Population and Housing Census in Nigeria, 6,987,047 persons making up 4.9 percent of the population was aged 60 years and above. Even though there is a slight decrease in the percentage of the elderly population from the 1991 census, there is an observable increase in the absolute number of the elderly population.

It has been projected that by year 2025, Nigeria will rank 11th among countries with over 15 million elders (60years and above) in its population (UN, 1985). Also, the population of the elderly is projected to reach 16 million by 2030 and 47 million by 2060, (NPC, 2004). It is worthy to note that according to this projection, Nigerians may start to experience an increase in the number of oldest olds – those 80 years and above.

Population ageing is a function of changes in fertility, mortality and migration. The process is primarily determined by fertility (growth) rate, and secondarily by mortality (death) rates. Populations with high fertility tend to have low proportion of older people. Populations begin to age when fertility declines and adult mortality rate decline as well. Hence, the proportion of the older ages, in future years will be significantly affected by assumptions regarding fertility. However, the proportion will be affected only slightly by changes in mortality. Improvements in mortality have contributed to higher survivorship of the population. Decline in infant mortality and increases in survivorship among older persons have resulted in large gains in average expectation of life. In addition to the effects of social change, the success of family planning programme contributed to a decline in fertility.

International migration does not normally play a major role in the process of population ageing, but can be important in smaller populations. International migration of younger persons could further aggravate the situation. As it is predominantly the young who migrate, it would be an additional factor contributing to making the elderly population significant in relation to the total population.

This paper will attempt to examine the demographic trend and socio-economic situation of ageing process and the aged in Nigeria, with particular reference to their past, present and future sizes. The paper will also attempt to examine some policy options that government might adopt to cope with such demographic challenges in order to advance the well- being of older persons. And it is hoped that this paper will stimulate discussions among policy makers, researchers and the public on the impact of population ageing on our social, political and economic development plans, because the ageing process which was initially experienced by the more developed countries has become apparent in developing countries as well.


The main sources of data for this report are the 1991 Population Census and the Post Enumeration Survey (PES), and the 2006 Population and Housing Census of Nigeria. The 2006 population census is the most current and reliable source of information about the number and characteristics of Nigeria’s population. The significance of 2006 census arises from its completeness of coverage and the scientific method it used for data collection. Other pertinent reports are also examined and utilized to ensure a comprehensive discussion of the ageing process in Nigeria.

       i.            Population size

People aged 60 years and above in Nigeria during the 1991 census were 4,598,114 persons, which was about 5.2 percent of the total National Population of 88,992,200. This figure had increased to 6,987,047 persons by the 2006 population census, out of a total population of 140,431,790. The figure is 4.97 percent of the total population. Although, there is a slight decrease in the proportion of the elderly population between the 2006 and 1991 census figures, there was a noticeable increase in absolute figures. This can be explained by the fact that the population is transiting, and other age groups order than the elderly group (60 years and above) may have experienced increases in their proportions. The small percentage of the elderly among the total population is not unexpected since Nigeria’s population is demographically referred to as a “young” population. The elderly as a group is thus, the smallest segment of Nigerian population. The population of the elderly in Nigeria is however expected to grow in future, both in terms of absolute number and as proportion of the total national population. This expected growth will be a result of the effects of demographic processes of, in particular, mortality and fertility. The Nigerian fertility according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS data NPC, 2008), is showing signs of decline, and for that reason, the elderly population will also increase.

     ii.            Age-Sex Composition

In terms of the age –sex composition of elderly population, about one-third of them were between ages 60-64, while two-thirds were aged 65 years or older. The oldest of the elderly, that is, persons aged 85 or older, was only 9 percent of total population of 60+. An interesting aspect of the sex composition of the elderly population reveals that there were more males than females in all age group 60+, only 46 percent of the elderly were female. The total sex ratio was 117, meaning that for every 100 elderly females, there were 117 elderly males. The sex ratio vary with age, the highest ratio was at age 70 – 79, where, for every 100 females, there were about 125 males. The census figures revealed that more males survive to every old age than females. This finding is contrary to what obtains in most parts of the world. There is what is referred to as “feminization of old age” (Weeks, 1999:334), where women outnumber men at older ages. However, there are still several countries in the world where there were more men than women at the older ages (Weeks, 1999:36). Such countries include Pakistan. This situation can be attributed to the result of the lower status of women which increases their mortality rates relative to men over the entire life course.

According to the 2006 Population Census, this demographic trend has not changed so much. The age-sex composition still remains the same. One-third of the elderly population is still between ages 60-64, and two-thirds were aged 65 years and above. The oldest of the old were 10 percent of the total population 60+. With regards to sex composition of the elderly population, there were still more males than females in all age groups 60+, only 44 percent were females. The total sex ratio was 126, meaning that for every 100 elderly females, there were 126 elderly males. This ratio vary with age, the highest ratio was still at age 70-74, where, for every 100 elderly females, there were about 136 males.

  iii.            Marital status

The marital status of the population aged 60 years and above were classified under the following categories, namely: never married, currently married, separated, divorced or widowed in both the 1991 and 2006 population censuses.

In 1991 census, virtually all elderly persons had ever been married but the percentage that were currently married decreases with age. Only 2.8 percent of the elderly population had never married; there is however, a slight variation by sex. Overall, 2.5 percent of elderly males reported being never married, compared with a slightly higher figure of 3.2 percent for elderly women. The incidence of widowhood increases with age, particularly among females. This finding is not unexpected in view of the relationship between age and mortality.

Two-thirds of all elderly persons aged 60 + were currently married, but the percentage decreases with age. In both urban and rural areas, and irrespective of age, the percentage of males in current marital union is consistently higher than that of females.

In 2006, the census revealed that 45 percent of elderly population had never married. There is however a slight difference between elderly males and females. Overall, 3.1 percent of elderly males reported being never married, compared with a slightly higher figure of 6.2 percent for elderly women. Elderly men who were widowed were 2 percent of the total elderly population compared to 27 percent among elderly females. This is in view of the fact that widowhood increases with age and particularly more among females.


  1. a.     Older Population in Labour Force

The 1991 Population Census shows that a majority of the elderly were in labour force, working to produce goods and services and contributing to national income. In relative terms, the elderly contributes more to agricultural production than other groups. This high rate of labour force participation is contrary to popular perceptions of the elderly as being largely retirees, and inconsistent with what simple demographic indices such as the dependency ratio imply.

Two-thirds of all elderly persons were in the labour force, and rates of labour force participation among them are the highest of any significant population group. Most elderly men, and a significant percentage of elderly women, continue to participate in the labour force almost until the end of their lives. Also, more than two-thirds of the elderly labour force are males. The census figures also revealed that majority of the elderly were employed in agriculture and related occupations.

The situation of elderly persons in the labour force has not changed so much during the 2006 census. Two-thirds were still in the labour force, which is still the highest of any significant population group. They still continue to participate in labour force almost until the end of their lives, and two-thirds of those who participate in elderly labour force are males.

  1. b.    Living arrangements of the Elderly

Most elderly persons who live alone are socially active and have adequate means to support themselves, but living alone is a mark of vulnerability, especially in cases of illness or disability, and is associated with a greater risk of social isolation and poverty.

The 1991 census shows that 96 percent of all elderly persons were living in regular households and this figure does not vary by age. About 4 percent of the elderly were in other types of households, including those with absentee heads. About 1 percent was in institutional households. An examination of the sex differences reveals that there were significantly more elderly males than elderly females in nomadic and institutional households as well as among homeless persons.

The 2006 census also reveals that 97 percent of all elderly persons were living in regular households, while about 3 percent of the elderly were in other types of households, including those with absentee heads. There are fewer elderly in institutional households (0.1%) than in the previous census.

  1. c.     Literacy and Educational attainment of the Elderly

In the 1991 and 2006 censuses, literacy was defined as the ability to read and write with understanding in any language, local or foreign. In Nigeria in 1991, three-quarters of the elderly were not literate. Also, with increase in age, the percent literate decreases. This means that the highest illiteracy rate occur at the oldest ages. Furthermore, elderly males are more than 3 times as likely to be literate as elderly females. There also exists a greater homogeneity in literacy rates among elderly females, while literacy rates vary greatly by age among the elderly males. In general, the elderly have low levels of educational attainment.

In the 2006 census, the elderly are still largely not literate, with about three-quarters of the elderly not literate. The highest illiteracy rates still occur at the oldest ages. The elderly males are still more than 3 times as likely to be literate as the elderly females.

The reason for the low levels of education and illiteracy among the elderly is due mainly to the fact that the elderly lived much of their lives prior to the period of accelerated socio-economic development. Even if they now reside in cities, their background is largely rural, and the quality and quantity of rural educational facilities tend to be inferior to those in urban areas. Consequently, literacy rates for the elderly in developing countries are low relative to younger generations.

  1. d.    Disability among the Elderly

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), disability is defined as “a restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being” (WHO, 1980:27). The impairments could be a loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure of function and involve disturbances at the level of the organ which include defects or loss of limb, organ, tissue or other body structure as well as defects or loss of mental function (NPC, 2004).

In the 1991 census, data were collected on seven types of disability, which are considered to be predominant in Nigeria. They are, deaf; dumb; deaf and dumb; blind; cripple; mentally ill/lunatic and others not classified in any of the above.

The 1991 census yielded a Crude Disability Rate (CDR) of 0.4 percent or 4.8 disabled persons per 1000 for the total national population across all ages (NPC, 1998:198-199).

In terms of prevalence of disability among the elderly, the 1991 census revealed that out of a total of 4,598,114 elderly persons in Nigeria, there were 56,768 disabled, giving a crude disability rate of 12.34 disabled per 1000 elderly persons. Slightly more than half of all disabled, are male (55%). The highest level of disability occurs in age group 85+. The lowest rate is for the age group 60-64, which confirms the fact that among the elderly, disability increases with age.

The most common type of disability among the elderly is blindness which accounts for more than four in ten of all disabilities. This is followed by deaf, cripple and deaf and dumb, respectively.

In the 2006 Population Census, disability was classified and asked differently. The question was on the most serious disability of a person.  And the options are seeing, hearing, speaking, mobility, mental and others. Seeing, still accounts for the highest level of disability even among the elderly.

  1. e.     Age Dependency Ratio

This is the number of persons aged 15 to 64 per persons aged 65 years or over. It is an indicator of demographic ageing and of the degree of dependency of older persons on potential workers. Demographers often use it as crude indicators of potential levels of physical and social supports needed by persons in young, old, or both age groups. The old dependency ratio, that is, the ratio of the number of elderly (65+) per 100 persons aged 15-64, indicates that for every 100 working age persons in Nigeria in 1991, there were 6.3 “dependent elderly”.

The 2006 Population Census shows that the old dependency ratio has dropped to 3.3 per 100 persons aged 15-64. This is higher among males than females.






Population ageing is a new phenomenon in developing societies. Unlike the experience of the developed countries, where the process has occurred over many years ago, the process is new and is just beginning to attract attention in Nigeria. The speed of population ageing in developing countries like ours has important implications for government policies on health care, pension schemes and economic growth.

At this point, it is expedient for us to mainstream ageing and the concerns of the elderly into national development framework and strategies in order to enable us to build a society for all ages.

This is the time to begin to put in place adequate arrangements for elaborate pension and social security programmes for the elderly. Fortunately, with the contributory pension scheme, government is already thinking in that direction. Long term planning to anticipate the changing needs over time of the young, elderly and working age population should commence to ensure that adequate resources are available when and where they are needed.

Increased longevity is likely to bring a higher incidence of chronic degenerative diseases and government needs to be ready to tackle that challenge. Currently, geriatric medicine cannot be said to exist in Nigeria. In a survey on geriatric medicine in Nigeria, majority of the medical personnel surveyed cited non-availability of appropriate facilities, poverty of the elderly, lack of awareness of the need for care of the old, unavailability of qualified personnel, and lack of government interest as some of the factors responsible (Togonu-Bickersteth & Akinnawo, 1989). Governments at the Federal, States and Local Government Areas need to come up with appropriate interventions and policies to address the health needs of the elderly.

Recognizing the effects of Africa’s rapidly increasing population of the elderly, and the issues affecting the lives of the elderly, several conferences on the elderly were held, with each adopting a framework on ageing. Following such conferences, Nigeria has now adopted a National Policy on the Care and Well-Being of the Elderly in Nigeria. The goal of this policy is “the substantial enhancement of the dignity, quality of life and overall well-being of the elderly in Nigeria, in particular, their economic security; their physical; mental and emotional health; their social participation; integration and sense of belonging; and their personal welfare in all other respects” (NPC, 2004).


I thank you for your kind attention.


Chief Samu’ila Danko Makama, CON

Chairman, National Population Commission,


12 July, 2011



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National Population Commission. 2004. Nigerian Population Census 1991 Analysis. Vol. 3: The Elderly. National Population Commission, Abuja, Nigeria. 2004.


National Population Commission (NPC) [Nigeria] and ICF Micro. 2009. Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008. Abuja, Nigeria: National Population Commission and ICF Micro.


Togonu-Bickersteth, F. and E. O. Akinnawo. 1989. Knowledge about Aging and Perception of the Old by Nigerian Nurses. Archives of Gerontology 7: 474-484.


Togonu-Bickersteth, F. 2001. Growing old in Nigeria in the 21st Century: Academic and Policy Challenges. Nigeria Journal of Aging and Social Development. Vol.1, No. 1, 2001.


United Nations. 1985. The World Ageing Situation: Strategies and Policies. New York.


Weeks John R. 1998. Population, (Seventh Edition). Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont. CA.


World Health Organization (WHO). 1980: International Classification of Impairment, Disabilities and Handicaps: A Manual of Classification Relating to the Consequences of Diseases. Geneva: WHO.

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