What are you watching? Not right this moment, of course (unless you’re reading this online), but during your leisure time.
Overall, leisure time for America’s seniors – those ages 60 and older, mostly Baby Boomers – has remained an average of about seven hours per day. However, seniors have increased their screen time by 27 percent over the last 10 years. According to the Pew Research Center, seniors now spend more than half of their leisure time in front of screens. They’re mostly watching television, or videos, an average of four hours and 16 minutes per day. Meanwhile, the amount of time these older adults spend on other leisure activities, such as reading or socializing, has gone down slightly. But the amount of time they spend on some activities has remained unchanged over the past 10 years: on average, they sleep more than eight and a half hours per day, spend three hours on chores and errands, and devote more than an hour to eating, as well as another hour for personal activities such as grooming or health care.
The increase in screen time coincides with significant growth in the adoption of digital technology by older Americans. In 2000, only 14 percent of seniors used the internet. Now 73 percent are internet users. Similarly, smart phone ownership was uncommon at all ages around the turn of the 21st century; now 53 percent of seniors own a smart phone.
But while overall time use patterns of older Americans haven’t changed much during the past 10 years, there are differences based on age, sex, and education. More than 40 percent of Americans in their 60s are still working, while just 14 percent of people in their 70s and just 4 percent of those 80 and older are employed. Consequently, the average amount of time spent working per day among people in their 60s is far higher than it is for people ages 70 and older, and when compared with older seniors, people in their 60s spend less time per day engaged in leisure activities, sleep less, and spend a little more time on unpaid caregiving and volunteering.
There are also differences in the day-to-day experiences of men and women age 60 and older: men are more likely to be working than women – 33 percent versus 24 percent – and among those who are working, men tend to put in more hours. However, although men spend 48 minutes more per day working than do women, they also spend 42 more minutes at leisure. Women spend one hour and 56 minutes cooking and cleaning daily, compared with 44 minutes for men. On the flip side, men spend more time on household maintenance, 55 minutes per day versus 22 minutes for women.
Time use among older adults also varies by level of education. Those with higher levels of education are more likely to be employed. Not only does the amount of leisure time vary by educational level, so does the way leisure time is spent. People with less education spend more of their leisure time on screens and less time reading or exercising compared with their more educated counterparts.