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5. Making purchases

The ATUS collects information about how people across various demographic groups use their time. For people 65 and older, the fifth most time-consuming activity reported in 2022 was purchasing goods and services at around 45 minutes a day on average.

That doesn't necessarily mean retirees are embracing retail therapy, though.

The purchase category includes practical and necessary expenses, such as groceries, gas, veterinary care or applying for government services. This category also encompasses time spent talking to service providers and waiting to receive services.

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4. Eating and drinking

People aged 65 and up spend around an hour and 20 minutes each day performing another practical (and necessary) activity each day: eating and drinking. While this figure tends to grow with age, there isn't much variation across all age groups.

The ATUS survey doesn't delve further into details of when or how seniors dine, apart from saying it includes eating or drinking alone, with others, at home, at a restaurant or somewhere else, but excludes performing the act as part of a work or volunteer activity.

3. Household activities

Adults 65 and older spend just over two and a half hours a day performing household activities, according to the survey.

What do household activities encompass?

Essentially, they're what most of us would define as "chores," including cleaning, cooking and food prep, yard work and home maintenance.

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2. Watching TV

According to the survey, people 65 and older devote between seven and seven and a half hours a day to leisurely activities. But more than half of that time is spent watching TV.

People aged 65 to 74 reported watching an average of 4.25 hours of TV a day, while those 75 and up said they watch 4.79 hours a day. It's worth noting that TV watching is a favorite activity across all age groups, but the hours per day steadily increase starting in the mid-thirties.

The next most popular leisure activities were reading and socializing or communicating, with older adults spending more than half an hour on these activities daily.

1. Personal care

The only thing older people (and all age groups) spend more time doing than watching TV during their free time is personal care – which includes sleep. In the ATUS survey, personal care also includes bathing and grooming. People aged 65 and up devote between 9 hours and 45 minutes to 10 hours to personal care a day, the survey says.

While time spent sleeping isn't broken down by age, participants overall reported getting an average of roughly nine hours of sleep a day. Naps and bouts of sleeplessness counted as sleep.

According to the Institute on Aging, older adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per day. For someone who falls short of that, the institute recommends daily exercise, keeping a bedtime routine and (pause for effect) no watching TV in the bedroom.


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About the Author

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady

Freelance Contributor

Sarah Brady is a (self-)certified money nerd. She's a personal finance writer and speaker who's been helping individuals and entrepreneurs improve their financial wellness since 2013. Sarah has written for Forbes Advisor, USA Today's Blueprint, FORTUNE, Experian, Investopedia and more,

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