Boomers on Leisure


Over 90% of Boomers say they’ve ‘had a change of attitude to life’ since turning 50, and they’re more adventurous than ever as they approach one of the last major milestones – retirement. Canvas8 spoke to British men and women aged 50-69 to find out what they do with their free time.

Boomers Leisure


“People are living longer than ever and so retirement presents a real opportunity for Baby Boomers to be more active than ever before,” says Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England. “For many people it is a chance to take on new challenges, it is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was.” [1]

Over three-quarters of Britons between 50 and pension age are actively employed, as are 12% of those older than pension age. Beyond work, the lifestyles of Boomers differ depending on which end of the age spectrum within the Boomer category they fall in; 41% of 50- to 54-year-olds live as part of a couple with children in the household, falling to just 10% among those aged 65-69. [1] But they share a mindset – 92% have ‘had a change of attitude to life’ since turning 50, and over half feel more adventurous. [2]

This generation expects to be spoken to differently by brands – 60% of 55- to 65-year-olds say their expectations of retirement contrast their parents’, as they’re more interested in travel and more active. They’re also feeling positive about the future, anticipating that they’ll have relatively more disposable income and will spend less time in ill health. [3] It’s why they're living life to the max – 41% of Britons aged 50-80 say they’ve had taken up a new sport, 54% now travel for adventure rather than just to relax, and 27% of over-50s are feeling more sexually liberated. [2][4] But what exactly are they getting up to in their spare time? And how is this changing the face of retirement? Canvas8 spoke with 20 men and women aged 50-69 to understand how Boomers feel about their leisure time.


24 hours a day. I feel like I should be spending it more constructively in some respect. I’m slowly but surely painting my house
Johnny, 61, London

Not much, which is ridiculous because I haven’t got a full-time job. But at this current stage in my life, my hands are full. I think that’s partly self-elected because of the person I am
Claudia, 64, London

I get a couple of hours after work, and then some more time at the weekend. I get less time to just relax and do whatever I want; time when I'm not at work can be taken up by housework and cooking
Debbie, 53, Ruislip

My whole life is leisure to be honest – like when youngsters finish their A levels, before they go to university
Teddy, 61, Huddersfield

I go to work every day, and I have as much free time as I want really. I typically work, I’d say, between eight and nine hours a day, and then the rest of the time is mine
Trisha, 61, London

New retirees are keen to keep busy beyond work
New retirees are keen to keep busy beyond work
Victor Van Werkhooven, Creative Commons, 2015 ©


I find that as you get older, if somebody cancels on you you're more likely to secretly feel pleased about it. I’m quite happy having a night in now. I’m teaching myself to play the piano – not learning it when I was younger has inspired me
Cris, 53, London

I have a nice balance of leisure and voluntary activities. I'm quite a busy person, I like to be with people. There was no way that I was going to put on my slippers and sit by the fire
Christine, 62, Maidstone

Most of my week I am sitting inside doing one-to-one psychotherapy, which can be pretty intense. It’s nice to go outside, go somewhere there is life and air. If I stay in, it’s probably because I don’t want to see or talk to anybody – I’m exhausted or hungover
Sam, 50, Berkhamsted

In my free time, I tend to do my own hobbies like gardening, cooking for leisure, or photography. In free time with my husband, I like walking, visiting places and going on holiday
Kath, 61, Beverley

I'm reviewing albums that I've had for a long time that I haven't had time to listen to with great attention. I'll sit down and really listen, it's not just a background thing anymore. And cycling – I do that every week to keep fit
Teddy, 61, Huddersfield

Boomers are indulging hobbies both old and new
Boomers are indulging hobbies both old and new
TED Conference, Creative Commons, 2017 ©


Visiting National Trust properties, going out for meals and the cinema and theatre. I tend to go on holiday a few times a year too you have the time when you get older
Christine, 62, Maidstone

I’d happily spend money on any leisure pursuit at least once. So, if you said ‘do you want to come watch netball, volleyball or cricket?’, I’d probably say ‘yeah – I’ve never done that before, it’s worth a look’. I can do that now that I have money
Gordon, 65, Hemel Hempstead

The gym is a good thing to spend money on, because it makes you make sure you go so you get your money’s worth. Exercising makes you feel better
Louise, 52, Guildford

I have a boat – it's a total money pit. It takes a lot of time and costs a lot. But it's just an investment in the pleasure you get in owning one
Gerald, 65, London

Going to any classes, like gym or art – any of my hobbies really. If I'm getting something back from the experience I'm having, I'm happy to pay for it. I don't do anything that I'm not happy to spend on
Kath, 61, Beverley

Like Gens Y and Z, Boomers are eager experience hunters
Like Gens Y and Z, Boomers are eager experience hunters
Yelp Inc., Creative Commons, 2017 ©


I'm thinking of taking up golf because I'm not working, so sometimes I have whole days when I don't have any chores. It would be nice if there was something that I could do on a day when I don't have anything else planned
Leslie, 62, London

Cycling has been my hobby for decades and not working means that I can do more of it. It's only once you stop working that you realise that there are many people in your situation who are off riding during the week
Mike, 62, Surrey

Fishing is my most regular hobby – I like the idea of pitting myself against nature, the solitude, and the wildlife I see when I'm out there
Chris, 64, Yorkshire

I find gardening very therapeutic and I enjoy the artistic side of it. I do vegetative propagation, which is quite a specialised thing to do. The benefits of horticulture are well-documented – being around greenery and watching growth
Joanne, 61, London

Things like running, playing sudoku – trying to keep my brain operated. I’m trying to cook chocolates – not necessarily as a career, but to make sure that they taste good, look good and have the right imagination inside them
Johnny, 61, London

While some are slowing down, others are looking to stay active
While some are slowing down, others are looking to stay active
Patrick, Creative Commons, 2016 ©


The holiday I dream of is getting on my motorbike and riding around the world. But that's never going to happen, so something adventurous involving a big mountain and a bicycle. The idea of sitting on a beach every day just seems like a wasted opportunity to me
Mike, 62, Surrey

I prefer not to be in a place full of tourists. I would like to interact with the locals and immerse myself in the culture. I'm prefer trains over flying – it’s a lot less hassle, even if it takes longer
Christine, 62, Maidstone

My friend has a boat just off a Greek island. My ideal part of that is a deserted anchorage, sitting and drinking wine while the sun goes down. It's basically high class caravanning
Gerald, 65, London

A bit of everything. A bit of beach, and a bit of culture – going to see amazing places like Pompeii. Finding local food is probably the most important thing. Weather is next; I like it being hot
Cris, 53, London

Two weeks in Italy. I definitely get the plane because it is the quickest. If I'm taking a day's holiday off work, I don't want to spend it driving to my destination, I just want to get there
Debbie, 52, Ruislip

Retirees are jet-setting to make use of their ample time
Retirees are jet-setting to make use of their ample time
Patrick, Creative Commons, 2016 ©

Insights and opportunities

Retirement is a key milestone for this group. It’s something they look forward to, with 60% of over-50s saying that retirement has or will make them happier. [5] But whether they’re still working or not, Boomers often focus on the present, and look to make the most of the time they have. It’s why 59% of over-50s say they live for today instead of tomorrow. [6] “Not having much free time means it's really precious to me,” says Debbie, 52, from Ruislip.

Even those who don’t have full-time jobs describe themselves as ‘busy’ – they have responsibilities and will even create work for themselves. “A lot of the work I do, people pay others to do. But it’s time-consuming, and I feel important,” says 64-year-old Londoner Claudia. After all, purpose is a key part of being human, with studies even suggesting it can help people live longer. [7] “At our very core we need to matter,” writes Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. “We need evidence to believe that we are growing and giving – becoming the best we can be.” [8] Brands that recognise Boomers’ busy lives and encourage people to embrace their free time should win their loyalty.

As they feel busy, many things that Boomers do in their spare time serve more than one purpose. Puzzles and quiz shows aren’t just ways to entertain themselves, they’re used to keep themselves alert. And while looking after grandkids is also a ‘pleasure’, 50% of over-50s enjoy doing domestic hobbies in their free time or to keep in shape. [5] For those who are still working, it's about maximising the spare hours they have. “I like to watch films, but only as a group. I don't have much time so I want to spend it with people,” says Debbie.

I'm quite a busy person, I like to be with people. There was no way that I was going to put on my slippers and sit by the fire

Christine, 62, Maidstone
Home thods, Creative Commons, 2017

Social identity theory suggests that work can form a key part of people's identity – something that is lost in retirement. [9] Whether they’re a cyclist like Mike or a sailor like Gerald, Boomers’ leisure pursuits also factor into their identity, with many of those set to leave work picking up interests in preparation. This can manifest as a thirst for lifelong learning. “I did an English Literature degree and now I'm filling in all the gaps – I've gone back to university but without the exams,” says Teddy, 61, from Huddersfield.

By the time they hit retirement, Boomers know what they do and don’t like. Teddy, for instance, loves music but doesn’t go to gigs anymore; ”It's just a night out for people, so I'm wary of shelling out £70 to see an artist in an uncomfortable environment, where people might not respect the fact that you've got an absolute legend there,” he says. Chris, 64, from Yorkshire, sums this up well: “There isn't anything I don't enjoy doing now. Because if I don't enjoy it, I don't do it.” Boomers might understand themselves, but 82% say that their favourite retail brand no longer gets them. So, it’s important to pay attention – after all, 60% would buy more if brands communicated with them better. [10]

This is a Canvas8 Article, you can read it here

1. 'Health of the ‘baby boomer’ generation', (December 2016)
2. 'Oldies with attitude', Staysure (March 2017)
3. 'Active retirees will reject traditional retirement', Yours (May 2017)
4. 'Over 50s are more interested in dating than ever before, apparently', Closer (September 2017)
5. 'Where to spend your golden years of retirement', Aviva (2016)
6. 'What’s the best thing about getting older?', Canvas8 (March 2017)
7. 'People with purpose in life 'live longer,' study advises', NHS (May 2014)
8. 'The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better', Richard J Leider (June 2010)
9. 'The shifting self: social identity in retirement', Kentucky Journal of Communication (2016)
10. 'Millennial obsession testing the loyalty of baby boomers', DataIQ (January 2017)

Boomers Leisure
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