Public alms solicitation among the Yoruba elderly in Nigeria

  • Funmi Togonu-Bickersteth Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
  • E.O. Akinnawo Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
  • O.S. Akinyele Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
  • Ester Ayeni Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria


This paper reports on a pilot study of 108 Yoruba elderly persons engaged in public solicitation for alms in three major towns in south-western Nigeria. Data were collected through taped in-depth interviews of the elderly subjects on or near the locations in which they were soliciting alms. The aim of the study was to understand the circumstances which led to this choice of occupation. Specifically explored were the extent of the subjects' social embeddedness in their communities, their reasons for soliciting alms, and their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of this means of livelihood. It was found that the majority of the elderly beggars were those who for personal and health-related reasons "fell through " the informal traditional social safety net and for whom society provides no formal alternatives. These findings are used to draw attention to the increasing frailty of the extended family system in coping with the old-age demands in an increasingly urbanized and heterogeneous Nigerian society. The authors conclude that the need for formal social welfare services for poor, urban elderly persons is an imperative of equitable social development


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