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Older age provides time for engagement in other activities like rest and leisure
Everyone's day is made up of exactly 24 hours, which means that each person has a finite amount of time to spend sleeping, eating, earning a living, taking care of others, home responsibilities and leisure activities. Exploring the trades-offs among these activities allows us to better understand patterns of engagement and aging well.
Reduction in paid work allows people to allocate their time to a variety of different activities. Men devoted more time to personal care such as resting and sleep (an increase from 8.1 hours for men aged 55 to 64 years per night to 9.1 hours for those over age 75). They increased time in leisure activities (1.2 more hours a day of TV watching, more than twice as much time spent reading - over an hour per day). They spent extra time on domestic chores, house maintenance, and shopping (see chart 3).
Women's time use patterns changed as well after age 55 (see chart 4). Like men, women spent more time on personal care, especially sleeping or resting (an increase from 8.5 hours per day for the 55 to 64 year olds to 9.3 hours for those over age 75). They also increased the amount of time on leisure pursuits (an increase of 1.2 hours a day in TV watching and 0.5 hours more a day reading).
Leisure is more than just watching television
Leisure makes up an important part of older Canadians' lives both in terms of the amount of time they spend and how engagement in these activities can contribute to their well-being. Canadian men aged 65 to 74 spent almost 8.0 hours a day in leisure (see chart 5) and women spent an average of 7.2 hours (see chart 6). This represents an increase of over an hour compared to men and women aged 55 to 64.
There are four types of leisure activity: passive leisure, cognitive leisure, social leisure, and physical leisure (Fast, Dosman, Keating and Chapman, in review). Passive leisure consists of such activities as watching television, listening to the radio, and taking pleasure drives. Cognitive leisure is made up of reading books or newspapers, educational activities, attending entertainment events, participating in hobbies, playing cards, and using the computer or the Internet. Social leisure includes socializing with friends and relatives and talking on the phone. Finally, physical leisure includes all physical recreation. Cognitive leisure, social leisure, and physical leisure can be combined to form active leisure in comparison to the passive leisure activities.
Active leisure time increases in later life
Men and women who were post retirement age engaged more in active leisure and passive leisure activities than their younger cohorts (see charts 5 and 6). In fact, men 75 years or older spent over an hour more on passive leisure than their counterparts aged 55 to 64 years. Despite this increase in passive leisure, men still spent more time in active leisure than in passive leisure until after age 75. For women, active leisure predominated even for those over age 75. This oldest group of women reported more hours spent in active leisure than in passive pursuits (4.3 hours a day of active leisure compared to 3.5 hours of passive leisure). Throughout later life women devoted fewer hours to leisure than did men, but the primary difference was in the time spent on passive leisure activities which was about half an hour less per day for women across each of the age groups.
Active leisure changes for men and women through later life
Engagement in active leisure differs for men and women at various stages of the life course. Men over 65 years of age spent 4.1 hours per day on all active leisure, about half an hour more than their younger employed counterparts (see chart 5). Most of this increase can be attributed to more time on cognitive activities in later life as time spent on physical leisure remained stable. Social leisure activities for men aged 65 to 74 years occupied just over 1.7 hours per day, declining slightly for the oldest age group (see chart 7).
A similar increase in the total amount of time spent in later life on active leisure activities was found for women (see chart 6). Women aged 75 years and older spent about 4.3 hours per day on active leisure. This was almost three-quarters of an hour more than women at least 20 years younger. There was a significant difference in time spent on cognitive leisure between the oldest and the youngest age group. Women 75 years and older spent 2.1 hours per day which was about 0.7 hours more a day than women aged 55 to 64 years (see chart 8). Only modest differences were observed in social activities with time spent ranging from 1.8 to 2 hours per day. Time spent on physical activities remained relatively stable. In all age cohorts, women spent more time on social and cognitive leisure than did men. Conversely, men reported more physical leisure in each age group than women.
These findings show that older adults spent more time as they aged in established leisure activities, but they may have also pursued new leisure interests.
Labour force participation has fluctuated over the past decade
Labour force involvement of women and men differs at different periods of time and across the life course. Changing economic conditions, societal expectations, and social policies can influence the levels of engagement of older Canadians, especially in paid work which, in turn, has ramifications for engagement in other activities. To examine the extent to which time use patterns have changed over time data from three points of time are studied: 1992, 1998 and 2005.
For men aged 55 to 74, labour force participation dropped in 1998 relative to 1992 but rose to a new high in 2005 (see table 1)1. In the early1990s the Canadian economy experienced a number of economic contractions; this in turn, had a ripple effect that differentially impacted older Canadian workers (Duchesne 2002 and 2004). During the mid to late 1990s older male workers experienced a number of negative consequences, like downsizing and forced early retirements, as a result of the downturn of the economy. Some of these older workers may have welcomed this forced disengagement from paid work while others may have suffered from it.
The majority of w omen aged 55 to 64, on the other hand, were less adversely affected by the economic contraction. In fact, the labour force participation rate rose 15 percentage-points for women aged 55 to 64 years during this fourteen year period (see table 1). Men and women over the age of 75 reported minimal rates of labour force participation.
The fluctuation in labour force participation over the fourteen year period had an impact on the average time spent on paid work by men and women aged 55 to 74 and their resultant use of time in other activities. As expected from the labour participation data reported above, engagement in paid work increased by about an hour a day for men aged 55 to 64 between 1998 and 2005 after a drop from 1992 to 1998 (see charts 9, 10 and 11). The increase in paid work was complemented by a drop in unpaid work and active leisure. Passive leisure remained unchanged.
Paid work for women aged 55 to 64 increased on average by 30 minutes a day in each of the time periods (see chart 12). This increase in paid work came with an equal decrease in leisure, almost all in active leisure.
Time use patterns for Canadian men and women aged 65 to 74 did not change substantially between 1992 and 2005. There was a small increase in the amount of paid work for those aged 65 to 74 and a corresponding small decrease in leisure.
The time use patterns of seniors over the age of 75 indicate that the gender differences in time use virtually disappears for this age group. There are only small differences in the way men and women use their time as they get older.