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Life transitions and leisure activity engagement among older Americans: findings from a national longitudinal study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2018

Yura Lee*
Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, Department of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Iris Chi
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
Jennifer A. Ailshire
USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


One of the major aspects of successful ageing is active engagement in later life. Retirement and widowhood are two significant life transitions that may largely influence leisure engagement patterns among older adults. Limited findings exist regarding the impact of life transitions on leisure activity engagement due to the scarcity of longitudinal data with repeated measurement of older individuals’ leisure engagement. This study longitudinally examined changes in leisure activity engagement as influenced by retirement and widowhood using five waves of national panel data from the Health and Retirement Study and its supplementary Consumption and Activities Mail Survey. Multi-level modelling was conducted with retirement and widowhood status as time-varying variables. Socio-economic status, depressive symptoms, cognitive function, self-rated health and functional limitations were also included as time-varying and time-invariant covariates. Findings show that engagement in mental, physical, social and household activities significantly decreased during an eight-year period. Moreover, transition from working to retired status was associated with increased engagement in mental, social and household activities but decreased engagement in physical activities among men only. Transition from married to widowhood status was associated with decreased engagement in household activities among women only. Encouraging active leisure engagement among individuals who experience either or both life transitions may help maintain their health after transition.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018

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