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Senior shift: Activities change as we age

| May 2017

What did older Americans do all day in 2015? And how did that differ from the way other Americans spent their time?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Americans ages 65 and older spent two-thirds of their day sleeping and participating in leisure and sports activities. That’s somewhat more time, on average, than people ages 15 and older spent resting and relaxing. (See illustration.)

Rest and recreation

View Chart Data

Rest and recreation
Activity Total, 15 and older Total, 65 and older

Sleeping

8.83 hours 8.97 hours

Leisure and sports

5.21 hours 7.24 hours

Watching TV

2.78 hours 4.22 hours

Reading

0.32 hours 0.81 hours

Relaxing and thinking

0.29 hours 0.48 hours

 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey.

In addition to spending more hours sleeping and on leisure activities and sports, older people passed the time differently in other ways. The chart shows average hours per day that people spent on other primary activities in 2015. Work, caring for household members, and education occupied less time per day for people ages 65 and older than it did for most people. Instead, older Americans spent relatively more time on pursuits such as organizational, civic, and religious activities than did the overall population. Click on the bars to see the activity hours for two older age groups: people ages 65 to 74 and those ages 75 and older.

View Chart Data

Average hours per day spent in primary activities, 2015 annual averages (1)
Age Personal care activities (2) Sleeping Eating and drinking Household activities Purchasing goods and services Caring for and helping household members Caring for and helping nonhousehold members Working and work-related activities Educational activities Organizational, civic, and religious activities Leisure and sports Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail Other activities, not elsewhere classified

Total, 15 and over

0.81 8.83 1.18 1.84 0.75 0.51 0.19 3.53 0.46 0.33 5.21 0.16 0.19

Total, 65 and over

0.86 8.97 1.35 2.39 0.88 0.12 0.23 0.90 0.02 0.55 7.24 0.27 0.24

65 to 74 years

0.82 8.81 1.35 2.45 0.91 0.12 0.28 1.37 0.02 0.58 6.84 0.26 0.20

75 years and over

0.91 9.19 1.35 2.30 0.84 0.11 0.16 0.23 (3) 0.50 7.82 0.30 0.29
Footnotes:

 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey.

(1) A primary activity refers to an individual’s main activity. Other activities done simultaneously are not included. All major activity categories include related travel time. Primary activity categories of sleeping and leisure and sports not shown in chart.

(2) Excludes sleeping.

(3) Estimate is approximately zero.

NOTE: A primary activity refers to an individual’s main activity. Other activities done simultaneously are not included.

These data are from the BLS American Time Use Survey. This annual survey measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities. Data show averages by age, employment status, educational attainment, and other characteristics.

About the Author

Kathleen Green is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at green.kathleen@bls.gov .

Suggested citation:

Kathleen Green, "Senior shift: Activities change as we age," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017.

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/careeroutlook Contact Career Outlook

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