Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When I retire, what will I do with my free time?

The question many people approaching retirement ask is:What will I do with my free time, and how will I manage when I have less money and more time? To answer this question we looked at a report called: The transition to retirement: Whenevery day is Saturday by Dr. Janet Fast and Judith Frederick (PDF File)

There is some research out of the 90’s that suggest how we use our time is critical to aging successfully. According to the research, successful aging is dependent not just on good health, but more importantly on being able to carry out necessary daily activities for oneself, maintaining close relationships with others, giving and receiving help, and staying involved in other productive activities. Other earlier studies report that the aging process slows significantly when people remain active and involved. Other research further suggests that volunteering may help mediate the transition to retirement.

Thus, questions related to how we spend our time during the retirement process and after retiring permanently from the labour force become important to understanding factors that contribute to personal well-being and designing programs and policies that enhance seniors’ well-being.

So when we stop paid work what do we do instead? In the absence of paid work demands, retired women and men gained nearly six hours per day (averaged over a seven-day week) to reallocate among other activities. While we  did reallocate much of the time formerly spent on the job to recreation and leisure, this substitution did not fully offset the time freed up by their retirement. Much of the time was reallocated to unpaid work, especially for women.

Retired women spent 5.3 hours per day on unpaid work, 1.7 hours per day more than women employed full time. In fact, retired women spent about the same amount of time on unpaid work that full-time employed women spent on their paid jobs.

Retirement makes an even bigger difference for men. Retired men spent 4.1 hours per day on unpaid work, compared with 2.6 hours per day for their full-time employed counterparts. So the traditional gendered division of labour continues into this stage of the life course, but it narrows slightly

Women who reported their main activity as keeping house spent the most time on housekeeping tasks—an hour per day more than women who reported they were retired. This amount of unpaid work exceeded the amount of time full-time employed women devoted to their paid jobs. Individuals shift activities based on relative resources, which change with the transition from employment to retirement.

Income has declined and time has been freed up. Consequently, retirees may shift from market production, where earned income is used to purchase products and services to save time, to home production, which saves money. Retirees tend to do more for themselves around the house and buy fewer goods and services.

Certainly, retired women spent more time cooking and cleaning up and more time on housekeeping tasks than employed women. They also spent more time gardening. Interestingly, time spent on laundry and ironing remained the same. While retirees may now have more time to take care of their clothes, their wardrobe has probably changed to reflect a more casual lifestyle.

Men increased their time spent on typical male tasks, such as interior maintenance and repair work and on gardening and grounds maintenance, with retirement. These activities may well lead to less money spent on restaurant meals, dry cleaning and hired help. Home producers also have more time for other contributions to society.The retired spent more time on all aspects of unpaid work (domestic chores, shopping, caring for family, friends and neighbours, and volunteer work) than the employed.

An increase in passive leisure, which has preoccupied prior research on seniors’ use of time, is evident. While slightly more women watched television following retirement (from 74% to 82%), participation rates for retired men soared (from 78% to 91%) on an average day. The time spent watching television also rose, about an hour more per day for women (from 1.6 hours per day to 2.7 hours per day) and two hours more for men (from 2.0 hours per day to 3.9 hours per day).

About half of retired mid-agers spent an additional 1.7 hours per day on other passive leisure (reading, listening to music, etc.). According to Rowe and Kahn (1998), active living is important to successful aging

In addition to spending more time on passive leisure, retired women and men also spent more time socializing than when they were constrained by workplace demands.

Indeed, the data suggest a dynamic social life. About 2/3 of retired women and men got together with friends and/or family outside the household each day. As a result, only half as many retired as full-time employed respondents (20% compared with 40%) reported that they lacked sufficient time to spend with family and friends. As well, retirees were both more likely to participate in and to spend more time on, active leisure activities than employed mid-agers. More than half of the retired population (50% of women and 59% of men) went for a walk, played cards or participated in hobbies and crafts each day, compared to about 1/3 of the full-time employed women and men.

While about 12% of employed women spent nearly one hour walking, hiking, jogging or running on an average day, nearly 17% of retired women participated in these activities for nearly 1½ hours per day. Participating in mentally stimulating games, cards, puzzles and board games also was more common among female retirees (15% compared with only 4% of employed women) and consumed more of their time (nearly 1½ hours versus one hour per day).

Women who were retired from the labour force also were more likely to do home crafts than those still employed (11% for more than 1½ hours versus about 4% for less than one hour respectively). Participation rates in active sports for women keeping house were somewhat lower than for retired women.

Retired men were far more likely to walk, hike, run or jog than full-time employed men (28% as compared with just 8%). Participation in games, cards, puzzles and board games also increased from 2% for just over one hour to 7% for more than 1½ hours.

Part-time employed men were most likely to participate in walking, hiking, jogging, running (15%) or golf (7%). Not surprisingly, golf showed the longest time commitment; participants spent 3.7 hours, regardless of employment status.

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