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Changes Across the Life Course

Our leisure activities change as we age. Our roles, interests, jobs, and relationships change, so our activities also change. We continue some activities throughout our life without much change, while we do some activities more often and others less often. The biggest changes occur when there are major changes in our lives, such as, at retirement and after kids move out of the family home. The type and amount of social leisure also changes when our abilities decline. There is more free time in later life, when we are no longer working. On average, older men have eight hours of leisure time, and women have 7.3 hours per day.

Even though health changes occur later in life, the types of leisure still stay about the same. The activities we enjoy in middle age predict the types of activity we will enjoy in older age. As we age, we spend a bit less time on physical activities and more time on passive activities. Over the life course men do less paid work, but the amount of work women do stays the same. Women spend less time than men on active things, but do more volunteer work and go to the theatre more often. Men and women spend the same amount of time on personal activities and passive leisure, but women watch a bit more television than men.

A change in health affects the intensity of activity, rather than the actual health of a person. Some people start new things, or give up old things. It is common for people to try new things after they retire, since they have more free time. People give up activities because of poor health and ability, loss of interest in the activity, or because they cannot do it where they live. People seem to adjust their activities rather than change them. Some people do fewer active things as they age, which may be caused by lower energy levels. Many older adults prefer to do things that are familiar, rather than try new activities.

The type of leisure of older adults is different than younger adults. Older adults spend less time on paid work and things that are physically demanding. They have more time for family activities. However, older adults spend the same amount of time as younger people on housework, shopping, and child care. The amount of time spent is different because of health conditions. As society changes, women are becoming more active than in the past.

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