causing urban growth to remain high across sub-Saharan Africa (Government of Kenya, 2000; Oucho, 1998).
Migration to urban areas has generally been thought of as a temporary phenomenon, with migrants maintaining strong ties with their rural origins (Grant, 1995; Gugler, 1991; Trager, 1998). The assumption has also been that they will return to their rural homes upon retirement. However, the presence and the growing numbers of older people in urban areas call for a better understanding of the context of aging in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the situation of older people living in urban areas in the region. These urban areas are characterized by worsening economic and social conditions, especially in the sprawling, informal settlements of cities across sub-Saharan Africa.
Even though sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of people age 60 and older, at about 5 percent compared with 10 percent globally, the region has one of the highest rates of growth for this age group, with projections reaching as high as 12 percent of the region’s total population by 2050 (Population Reference Bureau, 2005; World Health Organization, 2002). Recent comparative analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data conducted in the early to mid-1990s in 20 sub-Saharan African countries noted that, on average, people 60 years and over accounted for about 6 percent of the population, with the average for Southern African countries reaching 7 percent (Ayad and Otto, 1997). In Kenya, various estimates put the proportion age 60 and over at about 4 percent (Thumbi, 2005). The 1999 Kenyan census puts the proportion 60 and over at 4.7 percent, significantly lower compared with the 6.1 percent recorded in the 1989 census (Republic of Kenya, 2001). These differences may result from age misreporting in censuses and surveys, especially for older ages, since interviewers generally rely on physical features to estimate age.
Little research has focused on older people in sub-Saharan Africa. The limited work that has been done has focused mostly on rural areas, and attention to older people living in urban areas is almost nonexistent. This paper aims to reduce this dearth of knowledge by exploring the living arrangements, economic activities, and health status of older people living in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.
Nairobi typifies the current urban population boom and its associated health and poverty problems, characteristic of many sub-Saharan African cities. During the colonial era, restrictive settlement policies on migration to the city maintained the growth within certain limits, with a population of 120,000 in 1948 (Muwonge, 1980). With the elimination of the “pass”