Those who study aging have a long-standing interest in the age-related patterns of work/activity characteristics. Such questions have become increasingly important in recent years in light of perceived changes in the nature and timing of social roles and the increasing 'standardization' and 'individualization' of the life course. Using data from two surveys, the 1995 Aging Status and Sense of Control, and from the 1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households, bivariate and multivariate statistics were used to examine the work/activity characteristics of both the employed and non-employed over the life course. Regression models examine to what extent are the observed age patterns a function of roles and statuses. The characteristics of one's daily pursuits are age-linked, and also are in part structured by employment status, family status, health, and education. The age-linked patterns of our daily pursuits are important for understanding benefits and disadvantages to aging and employment. As such, we can contextualize the characteristics we experience in our main activities beyond our individual lives, and into age-structured phenomena. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.