Describing reasons for loneliness among older people in Nigeria

Blessing Ugochi Ojembe, Michael Ebe Kalu
  • Journal of Gerontological Social Work, June 2018, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2018.1487495

Describing reasons for loneliness among older people in Nigeria

What is it about?

In Nigeria, many older adults who live in rural parts of the country now live alone because most of their family members have moved to cities. This results in many older adults feeling lonely. We asked older adults in Nigeria to explain why they feel lonely. Their response will help us to develop ways to reduce loneliness in this group. Initially, we invited older adults to participate by announcing it in public worship centers. Twelve older adults aged 58 to 88 and who feel lonely told us about their experience. We went to their houses and interviewed them. The talks lasted about 45 to 60 minutes. We recorded these conversations and analyzed their data by creating themes. We developed three main themes. These points are: (a) Older adults’ perception and the existence of loneliness (b) Factors that made them be lonely (c) things that will reduce loneliness Some of the participants said that their loneliness is so bad that it makes them feel like nobody likes them. They said that just talking with someone makes them feel less lonely. The participants said that they do not feel lonely because they live alone but they feel lonely when they do not talk to their friends and family members. Some of these older adults that live with family members said that they still feel lonely because the family members are always on their phone and do not talk to them. The participants said that the type of attention they gave to their children when they were young affects the type of attention their children give them now. An example is, an older adult that is emotionally attached to their children at a younger age, receives emotional support at old age. Some of these older adults said that they feel lonely because their legs are not as strong as it is before. Because of this, they do not attend recreational activities or visit friends, and this makes them be lonely. Our participants said that their children calling them through phones or Skype, going to religious programs and recreational activities are the best ways to reduce loneliness.

Why is it important?

Our findings provided a cultural perspective of how older adults in the developing country experience loneliness.


Blessing Ojembe (Author)
McMaster University

Loneliness affects older adults in all geographical locations, including Africa where it is assumed that people live communally. Hence, there's a great need to develop and increase interventions targeting loneliness among older adults in Nigeria.

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The following have contributed to this page: Michael Kalu and Blessing Ojembe