European Population Conference
June 23, 2006
Time diary surveys, which collect information about people's daily activities, offer significant evidence for the monitoring of trends in ageing societies. Diary data reveal which groups of older people remain physically active and which become passive, offer insight on the social activities and degree of social interaction population groups maintain, reveal the degree to which older people participate in unpaid informal care or children, people with disabilities and very old in need of aid, indicate how older people move around from place to place, the degree to which people stay at home or visit other locations, among many other things. European social researchers have the advantage of access to datasets collected following the Harmonised European Time Use Surveys project (HETUS) guidelines organised by Eurostat. The largest endeavour of its kind, HETUS succeeded in influencing one round of time use study collection between 1998 and 2003 (with years of collection varying by country), and HETUS will continue to influence future time use data collection in Europe. Nonetheless HETUS does not allow the tracing of trend across time. Time use data has been collected widely across European countries since the 1960s, and the Multinational Time Use Study project has harmonised the earlier datasets from Europe (as well as other parts of the world) with the more recent HETUS surveys. This paper examines the process of creating the MTUS, highlighting the advantages and weakness of this dataset for the study of older people's behaviour. The paper also offers a preliminary assessment of changes in time use by older Europeans.