12 Ways Retirees Spend Their Newfound Free Time

Here is what retirees do all day.


When you finally leave your job for good you have eight or more extra hours to do whatever you wish. Retirees generally spend their newfound free time sleeping a little later, working around the house, and watching a lot more TV than working Americans, according to data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Time Use Survey also found that seniors spend more time lingering over meals, reading, and shopping than their younger counterparts. Here is what retirees do all day.

Sleep. You can toss out your alarm clock in retirement and sleep until you are fully rested. But retirees only get a few minutes more rest nightly than Americans overall. Those between ages 65 and 75 spend 9.55 hours daily sleeping, bathing, and dressing, which is only slightly longer than the 9.45 hours the population as a whole spends on those activities.

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Watch TV. The typical American watches an average of just over two and half hours of TV each weekday. Retirees sit in front of the TV even longer. Those age 65 to 74 years old generally watch three and a half hours of TV on weekdays and seniors age 75 and older watch over 4 hours daily.

Housework. Retirees spend more time cooking, cleaning, and gardening than Americans overall. While most individuals spend 1.8 hours each day on household chores, retirees spend 2.58 hours working around the house. These numbers also include time spent on pet care, home and vehicle maintenance, and household management. Even in retirement women spend nearly an hour more on household activities than men.

Eat. Retirees appear to linger a little longer over most meals. Older Americans spend 1.45 hours eating and drinking on weekdays versus 1.22 hours among people of all ages.

Work. Many people continue to work during the traditional retirement years – both because they want to and need the money. But seniors work a lot less that the typical American, averaging 1.26 hours on weekdays. The entire population age 15 and over spends an average of 3.53 hours at the office or workplace.

[See 10 Things Retirees are Doing Without.]

Shop. Retirees seem to have more time to comparison shop and clip coupons. Older Americans generally spend .86 hours a day selecting their goods and services versus the approximately three quarters of an hour all individuals spend shopping.

Read. Americans overall typically spend only a third of an hour each day reading. But retirees finally have time to delve into great books, generally spending almost three quarters of an hour reading each day. Seniors age 75 and older spend over an hour each day perusing books and magazines.

Socialize. Don’t expect to become a social butterfly if you weren’t one before retirement. Retirees spend only slightly longer than the population as a whole socializing or corresponding by telephone, mail, or e-mail. However, retirees do spend more time than working Americans using the computer for leisure. Only teenagers use a computer for entertainment more than seniors.

Relax. Retirees are almost twice as likely as working Americans to be able to take a few minutes out of their day to simply relax and think.

Exercise. Just because you have time to exercise doesn’t mean you will. Retirees are only slightly more likely than Americans overall to play sports or exercise daily.

[See 15 Ways to Tell if You Are Ready to Retire.]

Volunteer. Many seniors make time to participate in civic and religious activities. Retirees spend an average of just over half an hour on nonprofit or spiritual activities on weekdays. Americans overall spend approximately a third of an hour volunteering.

Care for others. Retirees care for people living outside their household for almost a third of an hour daily, the most time of any age group. But seniors spend the least amount of time caring for people who live under the same roof. Time spent caring for others you live with, mainly children, peaks between ages 25 and 34 and then trails off rapidly.

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) 9.55 (9.45)
  • Eating and drinking 1.45 (1.22)
  • Household activities 2.58 (1.80)
  • Purchasing goods and services 0.86 (0.76)
  • Caring for household members 0.07 (0.54)
  • Caring for nonhousehold members 0.30 (0.21)
  • Work 1.26 (3.53)
  • Education 0.03 (0.46)
  • Civic and religious activities 0.55 (0.34)
  • Leisure and sports 6.77 (5.25)
  • Watching TV 3.58 (2.61)
  • Sports and exercise 0.35 (0.29)
  • Socializing 0.59 (0.52)
  • Reading 0.71 (0.33)
  • Relaxing/thinking 0.44 (0.24)
  • Leisure computer use 0.41 (0.36)
  • Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail 0.25 (0.20)
  • Other activities 0.34 (0.24)
  • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009.