What Do Retirees Do All Day?

Here are the 6 things Americans spend the most time doing in retirement


The typical employed person spends 7.6 hours at work each day. When you finally make your exit from the workforce those extra hours can be filled however you wish. Most retirees spend their newfound freedom lingering slightly longer than the total population over food, sleep, and household chores. Americans age 65 to 74 only spend about 2 extra hours per day on leisure activities than the population as a whole, according to the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey. Seniors spend most of their additional 2 hours of leisure time watching TV, socializing, and reading. Here’s what the typical retiree’s day looks like compared to the rest of us.

Sleep. You can finally toss out your alarm clock in retirement, but only a few retirees seem to do that. The typical person age 65 to 74 spends 9.51 hours a day on personal care activities, including sleep. That’s just slightly longer than the 9.39 hours everyone age 15 and older spends in bed or taking care of themselves.

Eat. It sounds wonderful to have time to linger over meals instead of grabbing them on the go or at your desk. Retirees spend about 1.46 hours a day eating and drinking compared to 1.23 hours for everyone else.

Household activities. Retirees have no excuses for continuing to put off household chores. Americans age 65 to 74 spend 2.26 hours a day on housework, food preparation and cleanup, lawn and garden care, and household management, slightly more than the 1.73 hours the rest of us spend working around the house.

Purchase goods and services. Seniors seem to have more time to shop around and haggle for the best prices. Retirees spend almost a full hour selecting their purchases, compared to the three quarters of an hour the rest of us invest in our consumer goods and professional and personal care services.

Leisure activities. Finally there are enough hours in the day to learn to paint, hit the golf course every day, and read great books. Retirees spend about 7 hours a day persuing leisure activities and sports, versus the 5 hours the rest of us do. Yet, most of that extra time is spent simply sitting in front of the TV. Americans age 65 to 74 watch practically 4 hours of TV each day, compared to the 2 and a half hours the population as a whole watches. Seniors also spend three quarters of an hour each day reading, compared to the third of an hour the population spends with a book. Interestingly, retirees spend about the same amount of time as everyone else using a computer for leisure, exercising or playing sports, and only slightly more time socializing.

Work or volunteer. Many seniors still have paying jobs, typically spending over an hour a day in the workplace. Most Americans age 65 to 74 also spend a half hour on religious, spiritual, or civic activities such as volunteering.

How Seniors Age 65 to 74  Spend Their Day in Hours

(Results for the total population age 15 and older are in parenthesis.)

  • Personal care activities (including sleep) 9.51 (9.39) 
  • Eating and drinking 1.46 (1.23)
  • Household activities 2.27 (1.73)
  • Purchasing goods and services 0.92 (0.77)
  • Caring for household members 0.09 (0.53)
  • Caring for nonhousehold members 0.31 (0.23)
  • Work 1.23 (3.73)
  • Education 0.02 (0.47)
  • Civic and Religious activities 0.54 (0.33)
  • Leisure and sports 7.12 (5.18)
  • Watching TV 3.96 (2.55)
  • Sports and exercise 0.29 (0.27)
  • Socializing 0.62 (0.54)
  • Reading 0.77 (0.32)
  • Relaxing/thinking 0.41 (0.27)
  • Leisure computer use 0.35 (0.31)
  • Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail 0.25 (0.21)
  • Other activities 0.29 (0.20)
  • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008.

    Tell us, what do you plan to do all day in retirement?