Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Comparative Assessment of Social Engagement, Cognitive Function and Their Relationship in Rural- and Urban-Dwelling Elderly Nigerians

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Comparative Assessment of Social Engagement, Cognitive Function and Their Relationship in Rural- and Urban-Dwelling Elderly Nigerians

Article excerpt

Social engagement is the active participation of individuals in social and leisure activities as well as the interactions with family members and friends. The positive role of social engagement in successful ageing has been the subject of many investigations (e.g Rowe & Kahn, 1997; Bennet, 2002; Mendes de Leon, Glass & Berkman, 2003; Menee, 2003; Bath & Deeg, 2005; Park, 2009; Kimura, Yamazaki, Haga & Yasumura, 2013). These investigations showed that social engagement is related to good health including cognitive function especially in elderly people. Cognitive function has been defined as "to perceive, to remember, to reason, to make decisions, to solve problems and to integrate complex knowledge" by Busse (2002). It is known that cognitive function declines with age and studies have shown that this decline can be modulated by gender, education, social activities, and socioeconomic status (Huppert & Wilcock, 1997; Wang, Karp, Winblad & Fratiglioni, 2002; Lee, Kawachi, Berkman, & Grodstein, 2003).

Cognitive decline has been shown by several studies to be mitigated by social engagement including social network (e.g. Bassuk, Glass & Berkman ,1999; Zunzunegui, Alvarado, Ser & Otero, 2003; Barnes, Mendes de Leon, Wilson, Bienias & Evans, 2004; Holtzman, Rebok, Saczynski, Kouzis, Doyle & Eaton, 2004; Krueger, Wilson, Kametsky, Barnes, Bienias & Bennet, 2009). Many of these studies were conducted in Europe and America, and no significant attention has been paid to the relationship between social engagement and cognitive function in sub-Saharan Africa. The related studies conducted in sub-Saharan African tended to focus more on quality of life or the self-rated health of the aged which includes aspects of social engagement as independent variables without linkage to cognitive function per se (e.g. Gureje, Kola, Afolabi, & Olley, 2008; Depbuur, Welaga, Wak & Hodgson 2010; Kodzi, Gyimah, Emina, & Ezeh 2010; Fajemilehin & Odebiyi, 2011; Adebowale, Atte & Ayeni, 2012; Ejechi, 2015) or the prevalence of dementia (Gureje, Ogunniyi, Kola & Abiona 2011; Paddick et al. 2013). However one related study with a sample of elderly Nigerians showed that sociodemographic variables influenced cognitive function (Ejechi, 2013b), but did not consider full blown social engagement or the urban/rural divide. Another report by Ejechi, (2013b) indicated an association between physical activities and cognitive function, which was stronger with rural dwelling elders. Thus there is the need to extend the works of Ejechi (2013a; 2013b) to focus on the relationship between social engagement and cognitive function associated with cognitive function in urban and rural Nigerian settings.

The general indices of social engagement used in many studies (social network, participation in political party or professional bodies' activities, going to cinema houses, dinning in restaurants, travelling, visits, leisure activities etc) have generally not considered unique social engagement in African cultural settings. For example, chieftaincy titles, marriage and child naming ceremonies, burial rites, age grade initiations, new yam festivals, worshipping of deities and other community festivals like fertility rites are unique African social engagements that have not been appropriately taken into account. Most of these ceremonies usually take place with the elders presiding. Recently, Ejechi (2015) showed that retired academics in Nigeria actively participated in cultural activities with some even taking chieftaincy titles in their communities. Community festivals, chieftaincy title celebrations, age grade initiations and even burial rites take place more in the sub-urban areas than in the urban centres. Thus elders living in the rural areas are likely to participate more in the traditional social engagement while in the urban dwellers are likely to participate more in western influenced social engagement. …

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