n IFE PsychologIA : An International Journal - Comparative assessment of social engagement, cognitive function and their relationship in rural- and urban-dwelling elderly Nigerians




The social engagement and cognitive function of a sample of elderly people (≥50 years) living in rural and urban areas of Delta State, Nigeria were investigated. Structured questionnaire with Likert scales were used to measure social engagement (social participation, leisure, religion and contacts) while assessment of cognitive function was by self-rated memory and the short portable mental status scale. Social engagement levels were above average (median, 38.0-58.0; max. points=84), but declined with age and varied with other socio-demographic characteristics. Cognitive function followed a similar trend (median, 6.5-14.0; max. points=15). Urban-dwelling elders were better in social engagement (median, 58.0 51.5; P < 0.05), while cognitive function was similar (median, 10.5 10.0; P>0.05). Although social engagement was related to cognitive function in both group of elders, the strength varied with socio-demographic background (r=0.28-0.45, P < 0.05) where significant associations occurred. There was no marked difference between the rural and urban respondents in the overall association strength in spite of differences in social engagement. The interplay of other factors was therefore, indicated. These findings indicate that with improved social and health facilities, rural areas can be promoted as a good setting for life after work.


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