OLD AGE AND SOCIAL ROLE IN TRADITIONAL IGBO SOCIETY A STUDY OF UMUAWORRO COMMUNITY EZEAGU NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, ENUGU STATE-NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Just as physical and intellectual capabilities mature at different times in different people, so can aging be said to be a different points in times for different people. Aging is not a diseases rather it is the final stage of the normal life cycle. According to Erik Erik-son, it carries with it specific developmental tasks which must be completed as does any traditional period in life. Some people age successfully: they find use for what they have attained in a life time of learning and adapting, they conserve strength and resources when necessary and they adjust creatively to those changes and loss that occur as part of the aging experience.
Aging means, to a great extent, gradual coming to end of one’s life span and also coming into a period which is the last period of human life, both of which conditions have a definite meaning for individual. We may call this a personal meaning philosophy aspect of aging. Whether a person desires to live to old age, how he treat the aged, and he behaves when he is old depend partially on the societal expectations of the aged. The societal expectations of old age and the aged and what it believes old age entails may not all times tally with the reality. The American National Council on Aging in the 1970’s Commissioned a big study to ascertain the attitude of the public to aging and also to measure the gap between the expectations and the experience of aging according to (Francis Nnabue Akukwe: 1992:3), after an interview of over 4250 cross section of adults only about 2% of the respondents considered that years after 60 could be the best of life. And younger people were found to hold more negative view of old age than those who were actually above 65 years of age. Growing old involves not just physical change but also social change to other in the role people play and their relationship to others. As in middle age, these change or transition entails re-socialization (Richard J. Gelles an Ann Levine: 1999:151).
What does it means to be old? What is aging? To just say that “old people are not different from young people- just old, though this statement look true, but it did not face the question. There are some changes that take place in the process of life that minuses any easy answers. Aging is a process accruing throughout in life. Kent defined aging as a process of physical and psychological decrement that occur with the passage of time”. Hendricks described it as a combination of varied events that impinge universally on our lives, occurring at cellular, physiological, psychological and social levels. There is no agreement as to when aging begin. Some people hold the view that aging occurs throughout a man’s life, and that one begins to age as one begin to live, yet another group of people believe that aging begins when growth and maturation stops. It can be noted that individual’s perceptions of whether or not a certain age is old can vary according to the variable of age and sex. A way of explaining the social and psychological impacts of the aging experience is to categorize that experience into stages denoting the human life (Achley, 1972, Birren, 1964; Neughrahan and More: 1968).
Even though the stages of the life cycle are base upon chronological age and do not account for variations among individuals, there are nonetheless indicative of the overall life because most people follow implicit in the idea of a life cycle as a common set of social experience through which all members of a society are expected to pass, for example child hood is the time when a person generally receives a primary education, adolescence and young adulthood are usually the time of courtship and marriage, the period of later maturity is typically the time of retirement.
Thus, as Vern Bengston (1973) made it clear, age is a dimension of social organisation because he division of life cycle are those prescribed by the culture of a society in order to lend stability and predictability to be typical sequence of life events. Drawing from the foregoing points the traditional Igbo society therefore put primary importance to the issue of old age and so accord the aged a lot social responsibilities and roles. In view of this, the work ultimately concerns itself with the social roles or responsibilities of the old people in Umuaworro.
In situation of marriage, burial, little taking and particularly when it comes to anything that has to do with history of a community, the aged people in community are always given the respect to prevail in such matters.
In Umuaworro, it is fashionable to be old because that give one the opportunity to become an ancestor after one must have died just as it is done in all traditional Igbo societies. The contention of this, is to understand the social role of the aged in Umuaworro.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS
The study is directed at discovering the old age, and their social responsibilities in Umuaworro. In the times past, old people in Umuaworro and indeed all traditional Igbo societies are accorded a great level of respect, and also some social role according to the history of Umuaworro. They (the old people) are the custodians of the tradition and culture of the people of Umuaworro. The elders mediate over marriage, burial, distribution of lands, yam festival and chieftaincy issues because in the olden days in Umuaworro all these things are kin issues. The researcher tries to locate some of these roles (responsibilities) old people play in contemporary life situation.
Despite all the above roles (responsibilities) the old people play in Umuaworro community especially in this contemporary period. Then, the researcher wants to painstakingly highlight the following statement of the problem in Umuaworro Community.
- There is high level of neglect to the role old people played in Umuaworro.
- The unhealthy discharge of judgment to the affect) victim (injustices)
- The Struggle of chieftaincy title which result of shading of blood, losing of life and properties.
- Finally there is high rate of illiteracy in decision making in Umuaworro Community.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The real purpose of this study is to investigate the phenomenon of old age, and their social roles in Umuaworro. Based on the problems, the researcher have already defined, the research objectives of the study are include:;
- To find out how Western education and modernization have influenced the roles or responsibilities of old people in Umuaworro.
- To examine some problems facing old people in Umuaworro Community with regards to their social responsibilities in traditional and in this contemporary time.
- To know if there is a relationship between, increase in social role of old people and stability and also decrease social role of old people and instability in Umuaworro Community.
- Finally, the study hopes to find out the contribution of old people with regards to their roles or responsibilities in times past in Umuaworro to the functional stability of Umuaworro Community.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- Do old people play high level of social role in traditional time in Umuaworro Community?
- Is society better organized in times past than in these contemporary period?
- Does Western Education and modernization have any impact on the social role of the elderly or the role old people carry out in traditional time in Umuaworro.
- Does the social roles of old people perform in their traditional have more value than, the roles they play in this contemporary time?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Theoretically, this study will provide academic and researchers useful information in understanding the concept of old age and the role they play in maintaining stability in traditional times.
Practically, the study would provide very useful information about Umuaworro Community. It usually will starch the imagination of readers towards what obtains in the traditional set up around Umuaworro.
Information so provided by this research study will help policy makers as well as social workers towards proper rural development, especially this time that all the tiers of government, federal, state and local government (grass root) gear up in development of communities that make up the federation.
Finally, the finding of this study with assist in providing a conclusive atmosphere where the old and young people will live in peaceful co-existence.
1.6 A BRIEF HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY AREA
Origin:- There are two tradition about the origin of Umuaworro. The first tradition which is referred as the INDIGENOUS TRADITION claim that the people of Umuaworro are native to the area of their present habitat. That is to say they have not migrated from any other place.
The second is the AGUEKE UMUAWOMU. Agueke Umuawomu and Umuaworro Community both the two communities in Nigeria of which Umuaworro is one originated from their Ezeagu North. Umuaworro people are believed to have migrated from their ancestral home in Ezeagu and settle in their present location.
Umuaworro like all other typically Igbo communities operates a village democracy where authority revolves around the elders, the age grades and specialized enforcement group like the masquerade group responsible for maintaining law and order. Umuaworro people has no kings. The advance of paramount chiefs and later a traditional ruler was a colonial government creation and up till now the only traditional ruler has been the late Igwe Akadimma Onwuis Ulo I of Umuaworro).
Social life:- Social activities in Umuaworro are created on the various festival. These festivals are controlled by the agrarian nature of the community. These various agricultural requirements have associated festivals, the beginning of farming season, and the end of the farming season and the harvest period.
Religion:- Umuaworro people are believed to be highly religious. The indigenous people are idol worshippers and the multiplicity of idols in Umuaworro point to the religious nature of the people. The most important idol is Ugwu-agueke. Christianity has however initially erased the influence of these idols in the life of Umuaworro people.
Geographically, Umuaworro is located in Ezeagu North local government area of Enugu State of Nigeria. Agueke is made up of three villages namely, Umuaworro, Umugwu and Umuaromu. The largest village among all is umuaworro, which is largest in terms of population and land mass. According to last census, Umuaworro has a population of about 10,000 (2006 census), while Umugwu has 6,000, and Umuawumu has 4000. There are two prominent climatic divided- the dry season and the wet or rainy season. But there is a long period of rainy season in Agueke than dry season. Last year 2006 rainy season stopped at December 25th.
Basically Umuaworro is an agricultural community. The agricultural practice is determined by climatic regime. They are blessed with a rich marshy land across Okpo called Ihefo in Aguobe. This area is the cassava triangle; Umuaworro may well be referred to as the food basket of Ezeagu North. Some of their farm crops include cassava, yam, cocoyam, Okra, Maize and different types of vegetable. They also produce such cash crops as palm oil, oranges, mangoes etc.