What Retirees Do All Day

Here’s how retirees are using their leisure time.

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When you retire, you gain eight or more extra hours of leisure time each day. Retirees are generally using that extra time to linger a little longer over meals, sleep, do household chores, and watch a lot more TV, according to recently released American Time Use Survey data for 2011. Here's how people age 65 and older are filling their days:

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Relax. As you might expect, retirees have a lot more time for leisure activities than people who are still working. People age 65 and older spend an average of just over seven hours per day on leisure and sports, compared to just over five hours among the overall population. "These are people who have fulfilled the dream of having the complete choice of anything they want to do, and the things they choose are surprising," says John Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland and coauthor of Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time. "The three things that retirees spend the most extra time on are reading, resting, and TV." Retirees spend twice as much time relaxing and thinking (0.6 hours) and reading (0.7 hours) compared to the overall population (0.3 hours for both activities). And senior citizens are equally as likely as younger people to surf the Internet for leisure and spend time socializing with friends, and only slightly less likely to exercise.

Watch TV. Americans watch an average of two hours and 45 minutes of TV per day. Retirees watch even more, averaging 4.2 hours of TV-viewing each day. Men age 65 and older watch an hour more of TV daily (4.73 hours) than older women (3.74 hours). And people age 75 and older watch more TV than any other age group.

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Sleep. The only thing seniors spend more time on than leisure activities is sleep. Retirees spend nine hours per day sleeping, compared with 8.7 hours daily among the population as a whole.

Household chores. Retirees took an average of 2.4 hours per day to tackle household chores, compared to 1.8 hours among all Americans. People age 65 and older spend slightly longer on housework, food preparation and cleanup, and lawn and garden care.

Eat and drink. The typical American spends about an hour and 15 minutes each day eating and drinking. Retirees linger slightly longer over meals, for an average of about an hour and a half each day.

Work. Not all people age 65 and older are retired. The typical senior citizen spends nearly an hour each day working. But seniors are less likely to work than the population as a whole, which spends just over 3.5 hours per day working. "Older cohorts of individuals are less likely to be employed, so they spend less time working," says Rachel Krantz-Kent, program manager of the American Time Use Survey. Retirees also seldom spend any of their time persuing formal education, compared to an average of about a half hour per day among the entire adult population.

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Shop. Retirees have plenty of time to research and comparison-shop for their purchases, and they spend 0.87 hours per day doing so. Americans overall spend 0.72 hours acquiring goods and services.

Volunteer. Retirees spend very little time caring for household members (0.07 of an hour) and helping people outside their household (0.2 hours). In contrast, Americans overall spend half an hour per day caring for family members, primarily children, and about the same amount of time as retirees caring for people outside their household. However, retirees spend slightly longer than most Americans volunteering and pursing religious and spiritual activities, doing each for an average of almost 15 minutes each day.