John Mubuntu Kelly
With the anticipated rapid increases in the population of the elderly in Ghana and the consequent greater
potential need for comprehensive social welfare services, it is necessary and urgent to gain a firm
understanding of the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the elderly in Ghana who will be
having special needs. Using data from the three ecological zones of Ghana collected in 2012, the study
characterizes the living arrangements of the elderly in demographic and socioeconomic terms to portray
the economic and social disadvantages experienced by the older population in Ghana. The age distribution
of the older adults indicates that there are consistently more people at young and old age groups for each
sex and for both sexes combined. As should be expected, there are more elderly women than men at the
oldest old age group. Majority of the older population have no formal education (55% for both sexes, 22%
for men and 33% for women). Overall, there are more elderly women than their male counterparts in Ghana.
About 12% of older adults live alone, while women are more likely to live alone than men (14 versus 9%).
Men are more likely to live with spouse than women (13 versus 6%). Although extended household living is
still prevalent, there are great variations in living arrangements by sex. Women are much more likely than
men to live in extended households (that is, living with spouse, children and others, as well as living with
others). This is because taken together about 71% of elderly women live in these extended households as
opposed to about 41% of older men. On the other hand, 37% of elderly men live in a nuclear household
(consisting of spouse and children only), compared with 9% of older women. Logistic regression results
showing the individual-level factors associated with two key living arrangements (living with children and
grandchildren under age 15, and living with an adult child) by sex reveal that the background
characteristics are significantly associated with the two types of living arrangements. As men age, they are
more likely to live with children and grandchildren under age 15 but less likely to live with an adult child.
Elderly women are more likely to live with an adult child. Additionally, elderly people are less likely to be
living with children and grandchildren if they have some formal education. The result is in conformity with
the modernization theory where one should expect the elderly living in less urbanized settlements and
those with less education to be more likely to live with children and grandchildren. The government should
continue to encourage more women to go beyond primary education and initiate moves toward providing
universal old age security for women and men who attain a certain age (for example, 60 years for women
and 65 years for men).
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