Improving Urban Retirees’ Well-Being by Leisure Activities


This research is to investigate urban retirees’ needs and suggest the design direction of leisure facilities. Unlike the existing approach based on deterioration of physical ability, this will allow a new type of suggestion to enable the retirees to live their second lives in a more creative way. By analyzing their common memories and events, it was found that they developed their desire for leisure from their experience of wealth and economic growths. Some preceding research pointed out that their actual leisure activities tend to be static and passive in general. Through the interview, however, this research has found that there are 45 indoor activities and 75 outdoor leisure activities, while their potential demands for leisure further extends to 88. With outdoor activities outnumbering indoor activities, the result shows the opposite tendency to the preceding research. On the other hand, their potential demands for leisure further extended to include more intellectually stimulating learning activities.

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Park, S. and Seo, K. (2017) Improving Urban Retirees’ Well-Being by Leisure Activities. Journal of Building Construction and Planning Research, 5, 99-115. doi: 10.4236/jbcpr.2017.53008.

1. Introduction

In Korea, baby-boomers, who occupy 25% of the whole population in the country, are now at the end of their career, starting to retire. There is ongoing research at the moment dealing with the change in social structure due to the aging population in many perspectives. In the architectural field, silver towns and town planning for elderly became a main interest but they only focused on the physical and mental degenerative development of retirees. It has been said that retiring baby-boomers are the generation who have gone through various historic moments in Korea and thus have a higher degree of demands. Most of them experienced migration from rural villages to cities and now well accustomed to the convenience of urban living. Therefore, the residential planning for these baby-boomers requires a detailed observation on their lifestyle and demands. The purpose of this research is to reveal retirees’ needs and suggest the design direction of leisure facilities in their residential area and retirement regeneration area. Unlike the existing approach based on deterioration of physical ability, it is hoped that this will allow a new type of suggestion to enable the retirees to live their second lives in a more creative way.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Retirees’ Lifetime

The retiree’s lifetime can be understood through four methods [1] . The first method is to derive important events by shedding light on an individual retiree’s lifetime; the second method is to derive common events by considering all life-times of retirees (Categorical-content approach); the third method is to tabulate a retiree’s lifetime on the basis of the retiree’s happiness and misfortune (Holistic-form); and the forth method is to analyze the discourse of an individual retiree and explore the narrative structure. Considering the common characteristics of the retiree group in our research, it was decided that the method of deriving common events through considering all life-times is more effective. The common event refers to the experience of a historical event and socialization [2] ; and in the case of this research dealing with those born after the 1950s, it is probable for them to show similar characteristics because they share the same historical experience [3] [4] . They can be summarized as Table 1.

Most of the present retirees spent their childhood in rural areas. The reasons for their migration to Seoul are due to the followings: The first is the incorporation into the better mass public education system in the capital city and the second is the incorporation into the most advanced area for more opportunities, especially after the Korean War. The retirees’ lifetime can be summarized as mass education, economic affluence, the period of democratization, the foreign exchange crisis, and the surge of information technology. This generation is also described as the 1st generation of proper education, the generation of an economic rehabilitation, the generation of industrialization, the generation of bridge or the 1st generation of democratization [2] . They received mass education for the first time, and the college admissions quota in the 1980s led to educational competitions. In addition, while they came to have the values demanding political freedom and human rights due to democracy movements during the same period, they also experienced Yushin, a period of military dictatorship in the 1960s and 70s. They experienced economic affluence while they went through 5-year economic development plans and industrialization process. Such

Table 1. Social events for the retirees born after the 1950s.

economic affluence developed into needs for leisure, culture and services beyond material affluence. On the other hand, they became the victims of massive unemployment and restructuring caused by the foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s. With the advent of the information age in 2000, they went through the adaptation process from analogue culture to digital culture. Finally, they entered the period of retirement in 2010. Han Hye-kyung [5] understands their characteristics as a well-educated generation, a generation with a sense of responsibility for parents and a strong awareness of family support, and a generation with the greatest sense of responsibility for the country and society. The above characteristics of the retirees can be summarized as Figure 1.

The figure shows the present retirees’ characteristics formed on the basis of their lifetime. From the above, it should be noted that they are characterized by a massive group migrated to Seoul, with a high interest in economy and strong needs for leisure & culture and services after retirement. A review on retirees’ leisure and cultural life after retirement is directly connected to their daily life after retirement. The forms and kinds of leisure and cultural activities in which retirees can participate are diverse. Bang Hung-bok [6] maintained that the typical forms of leisure for Korean retirees are mostly static activities such as TV watching, radio listening, and baduk (Go), and that the retirees’ participation in dynamic activities such as leisure activities and cultural activities are limited. In this context, Kim Jae-soog [7] found that retirees’ leisure activities remained passive ones such as TV watching and meetings with friends. Like the above, the types of retirees’ leisure and culture can generally be classified into pastime,

Figure 1. Relationship of retiree’s lifetime and life-style.

leisure, cultural activities, friend exchange activities, and social group activities (Table 2).

Lee Shin-sook [8] surveyed retirees for their leisure life, and found that they allocated 6 hours a day on the average for leisure activities. Kim Su-youn (2014) reported that retirees in their fifties spent 3 - 4 hours a day in average on TV watching and about 2 hours on shopping, recreation, and information search. In addition, it was found that retirees in their sixties spent most of their time on TV watching, but very little on general leisure activities. That implies that the leisure activities of retirees in their fifties and sixties are static and remain at the level of pastime, and therefore an improvement needs to be made towards dynamic leisure activities.

This problem occurs in connection with the limitation of the current residential areas. Bang Hung-bok [6] found that the group living in an environment with spaces for leisure showed a high rate of participation in leisure activities, whereas the other group in an environment without those spaces showed a low rate of participation in them. In addition, groups having good access to leisure activities via transport showed higher rates of participation in leisure activities. These indicate that the creation of leisure environment in residential areas and good access to it are related to retirees’ participation in leisure activities. Thus, the creation of leisure and cultural facilities is critical for the well-being of retirement residential areas.

2.2. Methodology of the Study

A questionnaire was designed based on literature review and experts’ consultation, and the survey was done between 11th and 20th of February 2015 in the residential areas of Yeokchon-dong and Nokbeon-dong in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul. These residential towns in the north-west part of Seoul are reportedly an ideal place for our research because 14.2% of their population is retirees between the age of 55 and 65 higher proportion than the average of 11.6% in Seoul. To

Table 2. Classification and activities of leisure life.

understand the general characteristics of the participants in the present study, age, gender, a period after retirement, a period of residence in the current region, a desired period of moving in, the total asset size, occupation before retirement, a period of career, and monthly expenditure were examined (Table 3). The 231 questionnaires among 300 that have no missing answer were used for analysis using Microsoft Excel and SPSS 18.0. The participants were asked about their current internal and external activities (Table 4 and Table 5) and to choose their first, second and third most frequent activities. They were then asked their desired activities when they move into a retirement residential area (Table 6). In all following tables, their priority was marked as No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. To get the final ranking of overall priority, they were multiplied by 3, 2 and 1 respectively to add weighting values and then summed up all together. Additional questions were asked to find out the reason for their not pursuing their desired activities at the moment (Table 7), and whom they want to do those activities together (Table 8).

3. Analysis of Leisure Activity Types

3.1. Current Leisure Activity Types

Table 4 shows the participants’ current internal leisure activities, i.e. the type of activities they do inside their homes. It is noticeable that the TV watching is ranked first with the highest score of 388, followed by reading (228), the Internet (107), listening to music (84), and growing flowers (66).

The other five activities in the top 10, following the above top five, are: radio listening (48), house cleaning (34), watching movies (30), cooking (29) and listening to internet broadcast (28). The actual number of respondents who chose TV watching as their first, second, or third priority is overwhelming 161 people out of all 231 interviewees; thus 70% of the retirees interviewed. Next, reading was picked up by 124 people (54%) and internet by 60 people (46%). Starting from ‘listening to music’ which is ranked 4th, the number of respondents drops down quickly to 34, making only 15%. It can be said that the retirees’ internal activities are largely defined by TV, books and internet browsing; something that are easily accessible without much cost and effort at home. It is also worth

Table 3. General characteristics of participants.

Table 4. Types and rankings of current internal activities.

mentioning that out of the top 10 activities, six are related to electronic media. Excluding the second ranked activity, reading, these activities dominate the seniors’ domestic leisure time. The only activities that involve the movement of body are: growing flowers, cooking and house cleaning but these are not connected to the improvement of their health. Although we have other external activities in the next table that are related to physical exercises, it is still valid to make an argument that the current internal leisure is biased towards the static and passive ones rather than active and creative ones. Therefore, it can be temporarily concluded that in the planning of elderly homes or retirement housing, there needs to be a consideration on how to include a more intellectually stimulating activities at home or in their residential area, rather than relying on TV, radio and internet.

Now, Table 5 shows the types and rankings of external leisure activities. It is quickly recognizable that it has more diversity with 75 activities, compared with 45 internal activities we have seen in the previous table. The top 5 activities are: mountaineering (266), golf (115), fitness (84), tennis (78) and strolling (78). The other activities from the 6th to 10th positions are: swimming (50), fishing (49), attending singing class (47), soccer (40) and table tennis (35). Again, if we count the number of actual respondents for each activity, mountaineering was picked up by 121 (52%), followed by golf by 54 (23%), fitness by 38 (16%), strolling by 50 (22%) and tennis by 32 (14%).

Unlike the internal activities where the top 3―TV, books and internet―were picked up by almost half the interviewees, only mountaineering has been prioritized by more than a half of the interviewees. This shows the extraordinary popularity of mountaineering in South Korea for retired people, but at the same time it shows the lack of other strong candidate activities for them. A further analysis reveals that out of 10 top-ranked activities, 9 are sports activities and only one is recreational activity which is attending “singing class”. This may seem like a natural result for out-of-home leisure types, but as we will see in the next section, the external leisure activities are not limited to sports but include other learning and recreational activities such as learning calligraphy, instrument and foreign languages. Therefore, this result illustrates the mismatch between the actual activities and possible activities for senior people. On a closer look, it can be also found that those 9 sports tend to be the activities they learned

Table 5. Types and ranking of external activities.

Table 6. Types and ranking of desired leisure activities.

some while ago from their younger days and performed until their current age. So, there is a gap between what they already leaned and what they want to start to learn after their retirement.

3.2. Analysis of Desired Leisure Act

After answering their current leisure activities, the participants were asked about their desired leisure activities when they move to the retirement residential area. Table 6 shows the types of their chosen activities.

It is already noticeable form the variety of types that there are hidden demands from them to explore other options they never experienced before. What is most striking is that the top 4 activities are completely new or only appeared in the very low ranks in their current internal and external activities. They are: calligraphy (scored 89 and picked up by 17%), playing instruments (88% and 18%), attending dance class (78% and 14%), and learning foreign languages (49% and 8%). Interestingly enough, the most popular one in the current external activities, mountaineering, is only ranked on the 5th (48% and 11%) in their anticipation.

All following activities after mountaineering are the same existing ones we have seen from Table 4 and Table 5: growing flowers, yoga, fishing, golf and cooking. Those top 4 activities can be characterized as skill development or learning activities. These normally take time and cost to attend classes or learn from someone, and also involve retirees’ capacity to access related information as well as to travel to proper facilities or places. It is presumable that the discrepancy between the current activities and desired activities have caused by the fact that seniors between 50s and 70s could not find the required time and cost, or they have not found any motivation to actually attempt to do those activities. To get the better insight into this mismatch, we asked questions about their

Table 7. Overall results of responses with regard to reasons for currently failing to do desired leisure activities.

reasons for not doing their desired activities as in Table 7. The result shows various types of reasons but they can be broadly categorized by 7 major reasons:

Table 8. Desired partner in desired leisure activities. N = 231.

personal reasons such as no time, no big motivation; financial reasons; insufficient information; lack of social relationship to get information or share the activity; insufficient experience; no suitable program to join in; no facilities in their area. Apart from the critical issues of time, cost, it is noteworthy that there exists a unique factor of social relationship that is to have someone who has similar leisure activity interests or someone who can lead or provide relevant information on unexplored activities. In some sense, Korean senior people in their 50s or more tend to be passive in attempting to initiate something new. By providing them with enough information on the new leisure activity and finding them partners to do it together will be a huge encouragement. In order to find out who would be their ideal partners, we asked questions about whom they want to enjoy their desired activities together as in Table 8.

The result shows that “friend” is the highest with 34.6%, followed by “group of same tastes” of 29.9%, “club member” of 24.2%, “neighbor” of 6.9%, and “others” of 4.3%. Thus, it is necessary to familiarise them with the people with same leisure interests before encouraging them to participate in their desired leisure activities. Close friends would be an ideal group but we need to think about other ways where people can exchange their thoughts and find their own interest groups before they participate in those leisure activities. On-line communities or advertisement on community centers would be possible solutions to this.

4. Conclusion

This research investigated a group of retired seniors from the baby-boomer generation to find out their needs and suggested the design direction of leisure facilities. Unlike the existing approach based on deterioration of physical ability, it is hoped that this will allow a new type of suggestion to enable the retirees to live their second lives. By analyzing the common memories and events from urban retirees, this research found that they developed their desire for leisure activities based on their experience of wealth and economic growths. In some preceding research, it was also pointed out that their actual leisure activities are still static and passive. Through the interview, this research has found that there are 45 internal activities and 75 external leisure activities. While the external activities outnumbered the internal ones in their variety, the former were distributed to many static activities relying on electronic or traditional media but the latter were dominated by mountaineering. On the other hand, their potential demands for leisure further extended to include more intellectually stimulating learning activities. Those top 4 desired activities were calligraphy, playing instruments, attending dance class and learning foreign languages that were not included in the top list of current leisure activities. It is presumable that the discrepancy between the current activities and desired activities have caused by the fact that seniors between 50s and 70s could not find the required time and cost, or they have not found any motivation to actually attempt to do those activities. Therefore, in the planning of elderly homes or retirement housing, there needs to be a consideration on how to include a more intellectually stimulating activity at home or in their residential area, rather than providing them the same setting where they would passively rely on TV, radio and internet. In our separate ongoing field work, we also found a trend that urban retirees prefer different types of leisure activities depending on their wealth, and this suggests that the residential planning for these people should take into account their level of assets. There was a limit in this research that the homogeneity was not fully secured. There needs to be a further research on the frequency of internal and external leisure activities based on a larger sample of interviewees with more refined parameters.


This research has been developed from the Yonsei University Doctorate thesis “A Study on the Direction of Plan for Large-scale Suburban Retirement Residential Area for City Retirees” and was supported by MSIT “Ministry of Science and ICT” project “Senior Friendly Residential Area Model Development” based on the “Elderly Cohort NEEDs for Promoting Local Communities and Regenerating Urban Neighborhood”: 2016-11-1279 as a Future of Female Scientist.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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