Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Determinants of Time Allocation Combinations among Non-Employed Older Persons: Evidence from Australian Time Use Diaries

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Determinants of Time Allocation Combinations among Non-Employed Older Persons: Evidence from Australian Time Use Diaries

Article excerpt


Two emerging demographic trends have captured the attention of many industrialized countries. Firstly, the proportion of those aged 65 years of age and over is projected to increase dramatically. In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, for instance, the proportion of those aged 65 years and older is expected to increase between 2000 and 2030 by 7.8 percent, 7.4 percent, and 8.7 percent, respectively (Kinsella and Velkoff, 2001:126). Secondly, in these same three countries there has been a trend towards earlier retirement; that has lead to increases in the number of older persons outside the formal labor market (Lumsdaine and Wise, 1990; McDonald and Kippen, 2000; Gendell, 1998). Although this second trend is now expected to plateau, there are still more early retirees than in the past (Kinsella & Velkoff, 2001: 96).

The changing age distribution and early retirement in these countries has stimulated many debates. One important debate has centered upon the provision and funding of services required in an aging economy. For instance, in Australia, the federal government in 2002 spent $5.5 billion on aging and aged care. Of that amount, $4.3 billion was spent on residential care subsidies (Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, 2002: 9). Similarly, in the United States in 1998, the federal government spent $87,826 million on nursing home care and $152,629 million on Medicaid for those 65 years and older (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). The debate about the provision of human and social services in these countries is partly driven by the related assumptions that older people are no longer productive once detached from the formal labor market and routinely utilize government services.

Older people are traditionally perceived as dependent upon government and private support services and no longer spend their time contributing to the economic and social well-being of themselves, their households and society (U.N. Volunteers, 2002). However, as research has shown, many older people spend time doing productive activities (Herzog and Morgan 1992; Gallagher, 1994) and the majority continue active lives without severe disabilities (Kinsella and Velkoff, 2001). Despite this growing body of research that contradicts this conventional view, a more detailed understanding is required about how older people allocate their time to activities and the factors associated with that allocation (Mutchler, Burr, and Caro, 2003). Moreover, much of the existing data on time allocation of older people is out-of-date and requires revision (Knapp and Muller, 2000:25).

Using recent time use data from Australia and a non-linear time allocation model, we show older persons who have left the formal labor market: (1) remain active, and that (2) many allocate their time to human service activities that benefit others and their communities. These findings contradict the stereotype that older individuals are sedentary, no longer contribute, and dependent, and embody an important aspect of productive aging (Mutchler, Burr, and Caro, 2003; Knapp and Muller, 2000).

Our findings provide new knowledge of the factors associated with older persons allocating their time to human services rather than allocating their time exclusively to household activities, recreation, and socializing. By identifying the factors associated with time allocation of older persons, a deeper understanding is gained of the importance of demographic and economic factors leading older persons to provide services that could potentially substitute for government funded ones) This study, therefore, broadens the literature on the time allocation of older people as well as pointing out that the true cost of providing human services is underestimated due to the unvalued services provided by older Australian's time allocation to human service activities.

Background and Theoretical Perspectives

This study builds upon previous research that has investigated the allocation of time among older persons (Gauthier and Smeeding, 2001; Gershuny, 2003). …

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