What Retirees Do All Day: Top Activities for a Meaningful and Active Retirement

Planning for a fulfilling retirement is a crucial step in securing financial security and overall well-being. However, navigating this new chapter can raise questions about how best to utilize newfound free time. So, what do you need to do to answer this question? Well, look at the data and see how other seniors and retirees are doing with their time.

So, this article explores how retirees typically spend their days, drawing on data from the American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We will delve into the most popular activities among retirees, highlighting the importance of staying active and engaged for a happy and healthy retirement.

Popular And Common Retirement Activities According To BLS

Your upcoming retirement is likely something you’re both looking forward to and apprehensive about. Many people initially struggle with how to fill their days. However, knowing what other retirees do can be reassuring.

The American Time Use Survey by the BLS offers valuable insights. Most retirees spend their days engaged in normal activities like sports, socializing, traveling, and personal care (including sleep). According to the survey, people between 65 and 75 years old and over dedicate an average of over nine hours a day to personal care activities. Leisure and sports activities occupy another seven or more hours.

Household chores (around two hours daily) and eating/drinking (approximately one and a half hours daily) are also common time commitments. Interestingly, the survey reveals that work-related activities decrease as people age. When comparing the 45–64 and 65+ age groups, the most significant change is in work-related activities, which is logical due to retirement.

Below is a snapshot of the American Time Use Survey chart from BLS:

You can see the full article on the website of BLS

The chart initially surprised me with its low numbers for educational activities among retirees. However, it’s important to clarify that this category likely refers to formal schooling or college courses.

In reality, activities like reading (which can be highly educational) or taking online courses fall under ‘leisure activities’ in the survey. Regardless of the label, staying active mentally is crucial for healthy aging.  When you keep learning, you keep your brain sharp and contribute to mental fitness. We’ll explore this further later.

The listed activities in the survey are too broad, so I’m going to break them down in the next section.

A Breakdown Of Popular And Common Activities In Retirement

Popular activities in retirement can be categorized in several ways. One approach focuses on physical, mental, and social aspects. Another breaks them down into basic needs, leisure, and health maintenance.

This article will explore these categories and provide tips for incorporating them into your lifestyle, even if you haven’t already.

Physical Activities

Staying active is key for retirees to thrive. Regular exercise isn’t just about maintaining a healthy weight or warding off chronic diseases like heart trouble and diabetes. It’s a powerful tool to boost energy levels, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.

Think about daily walks in nature or group exercise classes designed specifically for retirees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for adults over 65, along with muscle-strengthening exercises two or more days a week.

Incorporating physical activity doesn’t have to be complicated. Schedule those walks, join a local fitness class, or explore low-impact options like swimming or yoga. To push yourself further, set specific fitness goals, track your progress, and gradually increase the intensity or duration of your workouts.

Read my article, How Can You Stay Active in Retirement, for more ideas. Meanwhile, let me talk about two of the most common physical activities my retiree friends often do.


Walking is a very popular and common activity for retirees. It’s a great way to boost your health and happiness in several ways.

First, walking with others is a fun way to make new friends. You’ll meet people who enjoy being active and exploring new places, just like you. Plus, having company can make your walks more enjoyable.

Second, walking regularly helps you stay active, which is important for your overall health. It keeps your body moving and your muscles strong.

Finally, walking can improve your mood and make you feel more positive. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and sunshine, which can boost your spirits.

By the way, a study by Korean researchers suggests that walking faster might give you even more benefits. But remember, the most important thing is to get out there and start walking, no matter your pace. Walking is a simple activity with big rewards for your health and happiness in retirement!


Swimming is a popular choice for retirees seeking a refreshing, social, and low-impact exercise option. Local pools and aquatic centers offer opportunities for physical activity, relaxation, and socializing with peers.

Social swimming activities can take various forms, including water aerobics classes, joining a master’s swim club, or simply organizing group swims with friends.

A study published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education explored the health benefits of swimming. Their findings suggest that swimming is an effective way to improve cardiovascular fitness (CRF) for both healthy individuals and those with chronic diseases.

The study highlights the various health advantages of swimming, positioning it as a valuable alternative to other forms of exercise. Interestingly, the results indicate that swimming might be just as beneficial as running, and potentially more advantageous than walking or inactivity altogether.

Mental Activities

Just like physical exercise keeps your body strong, mental stimulation helps your brain stay sharp. Reading, puzzles, and games aren’t just fun—they can actually enhance your memory, problem-solving skills, and overall cognitive function. Studies even suggest mental activities might help ward off cognitive impairment and decline.

Think beyond crossword puzzles (though those are great too!). Imagine lively book clubs, fascinating lectures, or even learning a new language. Spark your curiosity and social connections by joining discussion groups or taking up a mentally stimulating hobby like painting or photography.

There are many ways of staying mentally active. To get some ideas, check out my article: How Do I Keep My Brain Active In Retirement. Meanwhile, continue reading to know some mental activities I wholly recommend. 

Take A Class

A mental activity I love personally is taking classes. Taking a class isn’t just about acquiring new skills—it’s also a social adventure with a sprinkle of personal growth. Imagine whipping up culinary masterpieces in a cooking workshop, capturing stunning photos in a photography class, or letting your creativity flow in an art session.

The benefits are more than just bragging rights, although those are fun too! According to Knute Nelson, a non-profit organization serving seniors, continued learning may help older adults increase neuron generation, reduce dementia risks, and improve their ability to handle challenges.

Community colleges, adult education programs, and online platforms offer a treasure trove of options. Look for courses that ignite your curiosity, whether it’s mastering a new language, delving into history, or finally learning that instrument you always dreamed of playing.

When you get yourself enrolled, don’t just be a passive participant! Dive headfirst into discussions, collaborate with classmates, and find ways to apply your newfound knowledge. Maybe you’ll bake a gourmet cake from your cooking class for a family gathering or showcase your photography skills with a local exhibit.

For an extra dose of inspiration, consider MasterClass. This unique platform lets you learn from the best in the field. Follow a tennis clinic from Serena Williams, a cooking class by Gordon Ramsey, or a comedy class by Steve Martin! Learning a new skill has never been easier or more engaging.


Meditation, a form of mindfulness practice, offers a valuable tool for retirees seeking to manage stress and cultivate inner peace. It provides a structured approach to emotional regulation, promoting a sense of calm and well-being.

While research on the full range of physical and mental health benefits for seniors is ongoing, studies consistently show that mindfulness activities like meditation are enjoyable and well-tolerated by older adults. This enjoyment itself can be a significant factor in promoting continued engagement with the practice.

Integrating meditation into a daily routine is easier than you might think! Many applications and online resources offer guided meditations, perfect for beginners. These short sessions can help you develop comfort and familiarity with the practice.

As you become more comfortable with meditation, consider exploring various techniques. Popular options include mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and body scan meditation. Each technique offers a unique approach, so finding the one that resonates most with you is key to sustained practice.

Social Activities

Social connection is the cornerstone of a happy and healthy retirement. Retirees understand this well, actively seeking out opportunities to connect with others. After all, social activities can push someone to become more active and offer a powerful antidote to loneliness, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose.

Imagine nurturing your passion for gardening with a local club, tackling challenging hikes with a group of fellow enthusiasts, or delving into new worlds with a vibrant book club. These activities provide much more than shared experiences. They offer companionship, support, and meaningful interactions that enrich your life.

The benefits extend beyond the immediate joy of social connection. A study on social engagement patterns in underprivileged communities across six countries suggests that social activity promotes healthy living. Researchers found a link between social engagement and healthier habits like exercise and sleep, as well as lower levels of sadness and ill health.

Make social connection a priority in your retirement. To get started, look for like-minded people you can connect with.  Being part of a group is a two-way street, so focus on building genuine connections and offering your own time and talents as well as benefiting from theirs. Take the initiative by hosting gatherings at your place, and be sure to attend theirs as well. This reciprocity will help you build strong friendships within the group.

And, just like before, let me tell you two (technically three) important social activities you can get started with. If you’re done with this article, be sure to remind yourself to visit my article, 20 Ways How To Stay Social After Retirement, to gain more insights regarding social activities.

Joining Clubs And Befriending Neighbors

Joining a club can be a game-changer for retirees seeking social connections and shared interests. It’s a fantastic way to build meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals who share your passion for gardening, sports, volunteering, or any other hobby.

However, the benefits of social connection extend beyond formal clubs. Professor Alex Haslam from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology suggests that simply feeling a sense of belonging to your neighborhood can be very good for your mental health.

Think about it: striking up conversations with neighbors, participating in community events, or even just feeling a sense of camaraderie with those around you can contribute to overall well-being.

So, while clubs offer a structured way to connect, don’t underestimate the power of fostering a strong neighborhood identity. It’s all about finding ways to connect with the people around you and build a sense of belonging.


For retirees, travel transforms from checking destinations off a list to creating lasting memories and forging deeper social connections. Imagine embarking on a group tour, where you’ll explore new cultures and share adventures with fellow travelers. Or perhaps you envision a multi-generational family trip, fostering closer bonds with loved ones while experiencing the world together.

According to Chinese researchers, the very essence of tourism fuels various social benefits. Whether it’s fellow travelers on a tour, knowledgeable guides, or friendly locals encountered along the way, these interactions contribute significantly to your well-being.

Think about it: these encounters provide opportunities for connection, companionship, and emotional support. You might learn new perspectives from fellow adventurers, gain insights from experienced guides, or simply share a laugh with local shopkeepers.

When it comes to traveling and tourism, there are countless ways to get started! Join a travel club and connect with like-minded adventurers. Participate in group travel experiences tailored specifically for retirees. Or, plan a trip with friends or family, creating lasting memories together.

However, be reminded that having a great travel adventure doesn’t mean that you need to go to a different country. There’s also a lot to explore in the United States. You can check out my article 20 Best Retirement Trips In The USA for more inspiration. 

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After reading this article, you likely now have a good idea of what retirees typically do each day. The article also highlighted the benefits of these activities and how you can integrate them into your daily life as a retiree.

To learn more about the life of a retiree and the things you need to know, be sure to check out my other articles, such as these:

Happy reading!


My wife and I quit the rat race and retired in 2021. We RV'ed around the US for a couple of years and now we're slow traveling outside the US!

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