How Retirees Spend Their Time

Emily Brandon

Most people who are employed full time spend seven or more hours at work each day. Once you retire, much of the time you used to spend working turns into leisure time. People ages 65 to 74 spent an average of about seven hours per day on leisure activities in 2012, according to the most recent American Time Use Survey, compared to just over five hours among the total population age 15 and older. Here's how people age 65 and older spend their days:

Sleeping. People ages 65 to 74 spend an average of nine hours and 25 minutes per day sleeping, bathing and dressing, which is about the same amount of time the overall population spends on these activities. People age 75 and older get almost a half-hour more of sleep per day than younger retirees.

[Read: 10 Things to Do in Retirement.]

Watching television. Retirees spend more than half of their leisure time watching TV, averaging about four hours per day. Older people watch over an hour more TV daily than the overall population, which watches two-and-a-half hours each day. "The population is aging and older people watch more TV," says Geoffrey Godbey, a professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of "Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time." "TV viewing has generally been about half of all free-time use in the U.S. TV is immediate, it is comparatively cheap on a per-hour basis and you can do it in half an hour."

Home improvements. The typical person spends an hour and 44 minutes on housework, food preparation, garden care and other household management activities. Retirees ages 65 to 74 spend two hours and 32 minutes daily working around the house. "They have the time to do so, so they spend more time on housework and food preparation, whereas other people would be trying to cram them into their day to make time for work," says Laura Wronski, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "It does look like if you don't have all those work hours in your day that are taking up all of your time, you kind of have a little bit more freedom to do what you want to do."

Eating. Older people have more time to linger over meals, typically spending and hour and 25 minutes per day eating and drinking, compared to an hour and 15 minutes among the total population.

Working. Not everyone in their 60s and 70s has completely given up working. People between ages 65 and 74 continue to work an average of a little over an hour per day. "There does appear to have been an increase in phased retirement, with people cutting back on their work hours and shifting down to part-time," says Liana Sayer, a sociology professor at the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland. "It could be due to the recession, but it also could be that people enjoy working because it gives you a sense of integration and purpose."

Shopping. Retirees can take their time window shopping, comparing prices and evaluating the best purchase. They spend an average of 51 minutes daily purchasing goods and services, about eight minutes more per day than Americans overall.

[Read: 10 Great Senior Discounts.]

Reading. The typical American spends only 19 minutes per day reading, but reading is more popular among older people. Seniors ages 75 and older spend almost an hour each day reading, and people ages 65 to 74 generally read for more than half an hour on weekdays. "[Retirees] spend more time reading than other age groups, and most of this is reading for pleasure," Godbey says.

Socializing. Perhaps you've noticed an older person taking the time to stop and chat on the street or at the grocery store. Older people often have more time to socialize than their younger counterparts. They typically spend three-quarters of an hour with friends or attending or hosting social events, compared to 37 minutes among the overall population.

Volunteering. Retirees spend an average of only a few minutes a day caring for members of their household, compared to more than an hour each day that people between 25 and 44 spend caring for their families. However, retirees spend slightly more time caring for people who live outside their household than younger people. And the typical retiree volunteers or is involved in civic or religious activities for about a half-hour each day. "If you look at most commercial hospitals, most of those hospitals would not function without people age 65 and older who work as volunteers. That would also be true for community libraries and community art centers," Godbey says. "A lot of the institutions of government and of charities are served by older people doing volunteer work."

[See: The 10 Sunniest Places to Retire.]

Exercising. Retirees certainly have more time to exercise than employed people, but that doesn't mean they are motivated. People ages 65 and older generally spend only a few more minutes exercising than the total population, averaging 22 minutes per day.

Relaxing. Perhaps the best thing about the retirement years is finally having time to relax, think and reflect. Relaxing is a much more popular activity among people ages 65 to 74 (26 minutes) - and especially people ages 75 and older (37 minutes) - than among Americans overall (17 minutes).

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