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Report: Retirees Are Healthier, Wealthier — and Watch More TV

Money management firm suggests group has unused potential

Back of heads of Man and Woman watching television in a living

Rob Melnychuk/Getty Images

Retirees are healthier and watching more television than ever.

Retirees today are living longer, healthier and wealthier lives than previous generations — but they also are watching substantially more television, according to new research from a money management company.

Using data from the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Reserve Board and other sources, money management firm United Income compiled a portrait of modern retirees. It offers mostly positive developments — some perhaps surprising — but also has some words of caution.

“Collectively, retirees have never had it better, with more health, wealth, and time to enjoy life without the constraints of work,” the report declared. It said retirees are looking more at quality of life instead of “just basic sustenance concerns,” and that they were “poised as a group to reimagine retirement with fewer constraints.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • In addition to living longer, 62 percent of today’s retirees have no “physical or cognitive limitations.” That is an increase of more than 25 percent since 1963, when recording of that data first began.
  • Financial insecurity among retirees “has broadly declined.” That may be counterintuitive to modern concerns about retirement income,  but the report notes the percentage of retirees living on the current minimum wage or less “dropped in half over the past 30 years,” making up only about 12.5 percent of all retirees. “Similarly, the share of retirees living below the poverty line decreased by more than 10 percent during that same time period,” the report states.
  • Retirees have increased their physical activity over past generations — but they watch a lot more TV. Viewing per day went up by more than 1.5 hours between 1975 and 2012, the report states. “To put this in perspective, for every 10 minutes of time added onto the life of a retiring 60-year-old, the share of time spent awake and in front of a TV every day increased by about one minute, compared to about a 20-second increase in the amount of time spent on exercise, outdoor activities, or sports,” it said.

In its conclusion, the report said the lifestyle improvement data “indicate that more attention should be given to unlocking the tremendous civic potential of retirees through new incentives and policy.” It suggested policymakers should look at ways to encourage volunteering, as well as tax changes that “could better incentivize in-life giving to address some of the more endemic, domestic challenges facing the country.” Encouraging actions that would take advantage of the abilities of retirees might also reduce the growth in television-watching, the report noted.

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