Time Allocation, Loneliness and Wellbeing in Later Life: The Case of Italy

Annalisa Donno, University of Padova
Maria Letizia Tanturri, University of Padova

As population ages, understanding how to improve the elderly’s well-being increasingly becomes a priority and a societal challenge. It is well known that in old age time use patterns change radically, but how these changes varies between gender and social groups and how they are linked with satisfaction and wellbeing is still mostly unexplored.Time ‘freed up’ from paid work can be reallocated to different, active or passive, activities. The elderly’s daily routines are shaped by several elements: personal characteristics, biological needs, environment, social rhythms. Some of the activities old people perform could not be a voluntary choice, but the result of some limits (poor health, loneliness), determining a gap between personal wishes and effective reality, and influencing the elderly’s well-being.

By using the most recent Italian Time Use Survey (2013-14) we will get an insight in the association between time allocation, loneliness and wellbeing in later life, in a country that is ageing rapidly. The aim of this work is to analyse old people daily life for understanding which factors can affect their wellbeing, by describing patterns of elderly’s time use according to gender, age and social class. We aim at: exploring daily routines for understanding how much ‘active’ old people are, assessing their level of loneliness/isolation, assessing the levels of satisfaction/dissatisfaction old people associate to each daily activity.

To this end Sequence Analysis techniques are used, allowing to find homogeneous time allocation schemes for the identification of typical “profiles of time use” in old ages. Regression models are used to understand which factors influence the risk to be in one of the profiles identified. Moreover, we analyse how those profiles are linked with different level of subjective wellbeing, thus providing a new perspective on old people needs and helping policy makers to design opportune and targeted policies.

<>Time allocation,loneliness and wellbeing in later life: the case of Italy


Ageingprocesses and elderly’s wellbeing are fundamentally linked to the concept of‘dealing with time’ (Ekerdt and Koss 2016). Time‘freed up’ from paid work can be reallocated to different, active or passive, activities.But, the increased time for out of paid workactivities presents some problems: how to fill it, how to use it forself-expression and for community, how to find a satisfactory balance betweenwhat the elderlies would like to do, and what they can really do.Loneliness and poor health could, for example, preventing them from developingsome desired activities, thus generating an overall sense of dissatisfaction,obviously translating in lower levels of wellbeing. Earlier studies suggestthat as older people grow, they reduce their informal social interaction,membership in voluntary groups, and volunteering (Chambré 1993), or that theyreduce intense physical activities, and spend most of their time at home(Kelley 1997). Most studies on time use allocation in later life have beencarried out on aggregate times and participation rates collected through‘traditional’ surveys that do not take into account the very fine grain ofhuman activity (e.g. the primary and the concurrent activities, companionship,the location, and the sequences of time allocation during the day), neither thelevel of satisfaction associated to each activity and on the whole.<> <>Objective

In this paper we are interested in getting an insight in theassociation between time allocation, loneliness and wellbeing in later life inItaly, a country that is one of the most aged in the world. It is well knownthat in old age time use patterns change radically, but how these changesvaries between gender and social groups and how they are linked withsatisfaction and wellbeing remains unexplored.

We analyse old people daily life for understandingwhich factors can affect their wellbeing, by describing patterns of elderly’stime use according to gender and social class. Specifically, we: 1) exploredaily routines for understanding how much ‘active’ old people are; 2) assess theirlevel of loneliness/isolation 3) assess the levels ofsatisfaction/dissatisfaction they associate to each daily activity.

 <>Data and methods

We rely on the most recent Italian Time Use Survey (2013-14).We describe the time use of the elderly by reporting the average time theyspend on different activities, the average level of satisfaction for each activitycarried out, how much isolated they are all along the day, and how theseelements vary by sex and age groups.

Moreover, we use information on how activities areordered during the day and their timing/frequency. By following both thestructure and rhythm of time allocation during the day, we use Sequence Analysistechniques to measure distances between each time allocation scheme(corresponding to each individual in the analysis) and to cluster homogeneoustime allocation sequences, thus identifying different ‘profiles of time use’ inold age.  Clusters will be studied as determinant of old people’s wellbeing,measured by a synthetic indicator of subjective satisfaction. Moreover,regression analysis techniques will be used for understanding which personalattributes predict the elderly’s membership in one of the identified profiles.<> <>Preliminary descriptive results

Weselect 11,555 people aged more than 60 years. Chronograms show the percentageof people performing the analysed activities  all along 24 hours, by age groupsand sex  (Fig. 1).


Figure 1. Old age daily activities chronograms, bysex and age.

Amongmen aged 60-75 years a small percentage (around 12%) is still in paid work,this percentage notably decreases among men aged more than 75 years. The timepreviously spent in work seems to be reallocated, during the oldest ages, by‘passive’ – under a physical point of view – activities (reading, watching TV,resting). The percentage of 60-75 years old working women is very low, and itdisappears when analysing the oldest old women. 60-75 years old women spendmost of their time in housework and caring activities, above all in themorning. In the afternoon/evening female behaviours are more heterogeneous, butmost of the activities women perform (reading and media, resting, socialactivities) are out of the definition of active ageing.  The female timeallocation scheme does not change that much with ageing. The only difference isthat lower percentages of women invest their time in housework/caringactivities during their oldest ages, while allocating it in less demandingactivities.

Figure 2. Time spent alone. Chronogram, by sex andage.

Weuse chronograms also for exploring isolation among old people (Fig 2). Lonelinessis more pronounced among women than among men, no matter the age group. Theolder spend more time alone than the younger group, but the differences seemmore pronounced among women. Lunch and dinner time are the moments with thelowest percentages of old people alone, with the exception of the oldest oldwomen showing more ‘constant isolation trends’ all along the day.

Presented in Session 1177: Health, Wellbeing, and Morbidity