Benefits of TV for Aging in Place

Valerie Rubi, Guest Author

At one time, I worked as a caregiver for the elderly. I recall one woman in particular who had maybe four favorite channels. She continually got locked on the menu screen because she couldn't manipulate the small buttons of the remote control, not to mention the myriad amount of TV stations. It upset her to no end, because it was "her" TV and she wanted to control "her" TV remote.

I consistently had to walk over and get back to the program she was watching. I remember thinking, "Wouldn't a big button remote, or large button remote be nice?" Or, "Could I possibly lock her onto this station so she doesn't keep switching the channel?" Pretty much any easy TV remote would have been nice.

This also brought me to the realization that TV can be beneficial to the elderly. My poor patient was very immobile and no longer able to go out and enjoy the outdoors like she had in the past. However, she loved to talk over the program she was watching with me, or listen to old music stations, or simply have a laugh. And so, I looked into the benefits of TV viewing for the aged.

According to research on senior citizens TV viewing increases after the age of 55. This is an inevitable fact. This has to do mainly with the reason many become more home bound or suffer physical debilitation that leaves them with little choice for entertainment.

Also, as one ages or if someone has a mobile debilitation, they will gravitate toward something easily accessible like television, rather than reading or radio, which doesn't account for poor hearing or poor vision, failing mental capabilities, and difficulty with memory. TV has both visual and auditory stimulation with a more relational theme depending on which show is seen, at short increments.

Many, within studies, show elderly prefer news, sports, variety, soaps, or game shows. These have consistent action or give consistent information in short segments that makes them feel more a part of the world they are readying to leave.

There are an equal number of articles that boast on why TV is bad for elderly or senior citizens, and why it is good. I say everything needs to be in moderation. According to the Center for Media Literacy, and from my own experience, I agree that TV doesn't have to be harmful. Again, TV in moderation was actually helpful socially, mentally, and emotionally for an aging person.

Now, let’s look over the benefits of TV viewing for the elderly, since that is what I set out to iterate while writing this article:

1. There are few entertainment outlets as they age and lose mobility.
2. Nostalgia; such as, old movies, old TV shows, iconic celebrities, and so many music channels.
3. Easy accessibility and wide range of viewing choices – at least 1,700 TV stations in the United States both VHF and UHF.
4. Informative; such as, news programming, documentaries, and sports.
5. Opening to discussion the world around them.
6. Keeps their mind actively participating in something relatable as brain function deteriorates.
7. Informs them about what is happening in the world.
8. Most importantly, there is the social aspect; especially if in nursing homes with other aged contemporaries.

There are not many outlets for an elderly person with lessening mobility and mental capacity. Sometimes watching an old "I Love Lucy" show might bring them enjoyment and a laugh; they would not have had sitting alone in the quietness of their mind.

It's simplistic. It brings back memories. Nostalgia. It's a catalyst that might bring them to talk over with their caregiver or beloved one, an idea or memory for discussion.

Anything nostalgic is a plus for senior citizens, especially those struggling with Alzheimer's.

It is important to mix physical activity, ROM (range of motion) exercises, daily routine, puzzles and easy to play board games, and a possible walk outside if they are able, mixed in with the fact they will be chair or bed bound for the most part and might want to watch TV.

Since we know TV is more beneficial, than a hindrance, and enjoyable in moderation let’s look at how to make viewing TV more attainable, rather than an obstacle.

As I initially stated, it would have been nice to find an easy-to-use remote for my aging patient who wanted to control her TV viewing.

In this day and age, with so many programs and channels, one could easily get lost on their own in this quagmire of TV programming that's why universal remote seniors work well. The caregiver can pre-program only stations that they know would be beneficial or enjoyed by their aging patient or parent.

That led me to research "simple TV remote" and "universal remote for seniors." And what I found was the Flipper Remote; it was designed by a man who wanted help with a la carte programming for his father who suffered with Alzheimer's disease. It not only had the jumbo remote buttons, but it had a lock function on only certain channels for his father. You could pre-program from a hidden secret compartment, then close the compartment and let the elderly person then navigate on their own. It also had an ergonomically functional design for easy handling.

His father had been an avid golfer, and so he wanted to pre-program his dad's favorite channels, the Golf Channel, and other sports stations.

I realized for most caregivers this type of a la carte programming, or simple TV remote, was a godsend. The universal remote seniors, Flipper Remote, had a way of only using a few large button remote placements, or big button remote placements – only six buttons - so that their struggling digits could find their way to the shows they wanted to view.

But most importantly, it left them the ability to 'choose' their own stations. Or at least, feel like they have the freedom to choose the station of their choice. And this was the biggest gain.

It helped seniors feel in control.

For many seniors, disabled people, and those suffering with poor vision, or any type of physical ailment that makes them begin to feel they no longer have control, it is nice to have an easy TV remote that places them in somewhat control. Thus, a remote with large buttons makes it extremely easy for those who have vision problems, as well as, those losing fine motor functions.

It's not only the buttons, but this jumbo remote is so large and easy to grip, it would be hard for them to misplace or drop.

This is the reality of aging, and the reality of needing a universal remote for seniors.

And so, we turn to television, which in this day and age, has much to offer whether cable, satellite, set-type boxes, or DVD's. With all these possibilities and choices there will be, at any given time, a station or show that will catch the interest of your home bound family member or person you are watching after as a caregiver.

Because this is an inevitable choice and an easy outlet for many senior citizens, then why not try and make it easy for them with a large button remote?

The Flipper Remote not only has the large buttons, but let's you pre-program up to 30 stations for your elderly relative, and who knows what next program you and your elderly parent or patient might want to discuss? It might be extremely beneficial for you both.