People who are nearing retirement either dream of or fret about the time when they will have eight extra hours a day to take it easy. A friend just sent me a recent report that should dishearten the dreamers and tranquilize the fretters. “How retirees spend their days,” an analysis of the June Bureau of Labor Statistics report American Time Use Survey, says “Americans between ages of 65 and 74 spend only about 1.7 more hours per day on leisure activities than the population as a whole.” “Leisure time activities” are defined as “reading and relaxing, socializing and exercising.”
So what do we oldsters do on a typical day if we’re not taking part in the activities above? Apparently we sleep an average of 12 minutes longer than the rest of you, watch way too much TV (3.8 hours per weekday), linger longer over meals (by about 10 minutes), dedicate more time to keeping our houses clean, shop longer than the average 15-19 year old (or perhaps just spend more time searching out bargains), and devote about 10 minutes more per day to “organizational, civic and religious activities.” I was surprised to learn that we do not engage in educational activities. Whatever happened to lifelong learning?
Of course, all these averages make more sense when talking about our weekly or monthly lives and not our daily lives, but a phenomenon I’ve experienced in my first year off work is having less time than I expected each day to fit in everything I’d like to do. Most days I manage to work in my extra 1.7 hours for play and relaxation. It’s the other things that retirees do — household chores, clipping coupons, and “helping people who live outside their houses,” or don’t do — educational activities — that still haven’t found a home in my schedule. Guess I’ll go watch TV now and think about how to solve this problem.