Social environment of the elderly and spending free time

After leaving the labor market, the social field of the elderly changes and, in some cases, the number of people with which an elderly individual comes into contact decreases. As age increases, so does the risk of isolation. Thus, questions arise concerning who the elderly spend their time with and what influence an older person’s age has on the character of their social field. 

In 2016, the Institute for Evaluations and Social Analyses (INESAN) carried out a research survey dealing with preferences of selected conditions of active ageing. The research was carried out on a sample of the elderly from age 60 to 84 in Prague and Ostrava. Several socially excluded locations in both cities were also included in the selection. Quota sampling was used to select respondents from among unemployed elderly individuals collecting a pension. The quotas took into consideration the structure of the elderly of both cities in terms of sex and age. Data collection was carried out via personal interviews, and a total of 724 valid interviews were carried out.

Results clearly show that over half of respondents (61%) spend leisure time with their family members, most often with their partners (43%) and their children and grandchildren (18%). In regard to partners, 52% of men spend their free time with their partners, while 36% of interviewed women spend time with their partners. This disparity stems from the demographic characteristics of the population, which is influenced by a higher life expectancy among women. The spending of free time among respondents therefore becomes less frequent with age. Comparison between respondents in the youngest age category of the researched sample of the elderly (i.e. age 60 – 64) and respondents in the oldest age category (age 75 – 79) shows that 52% of the elderly in the first subgroup spend time with partners, while this number is only 29% among the oldest of the studied elderly individuals.

Graph: Individuals with whom respondents most often spend their time (according to sex and age of respondents)

In addition to close relatives, the elderly also associate with friends. A total of 29% of respondents meet with friends 1 or 2 times per week and 28% of respondents see them 1 to 2 times per month. A total of 9% of respondents maintain daily contact with friends. A more detailed evaluation shows that older individuals from Ostrava associate more often with friends than those in Prague: 52% of Ostrava residents see friends at least once a week in comparison with 35% of elderly individuals in Prague. The character of the social field and frequency of contact with friends is also influenced by whether the elderly individual is providing care for their partner. Results of the completed survey show that 36% of respondents who are caring for a loved one in their household do not associate at all with friends.