The tv is on 24/7. The volume is blaring. The show is a bunch of people yelling at each other. There is a commercial every five minutes. You wring your hands and ask, why do my parents watch such horrible shows on tv?
Here’s why. It’s stimulating. It’s familiar. It’s easy. And you don’t have to watch it with your eyes open. Older people often suffer from vision failures such as macular degeneration which renders them not blind, but partially sighted. Their hearing is not as acute as when they were young. And you can ‘watch’ these highly verbal shows even as you drift in and out of catnap-like sleeps.
Much of the full cinema experience is lost on older folks. They have difficulty tracking complex plots. Foreign accents are hard to comprehend. Social memes may no longer be in their cultural wheelhouse which means the jokes aren’t funny. Action scenes are too violent. And the imagery is altogether too explicit.
This is why they would rather watch a rerun of Matlock than the latest episode of The Walking Dead. And why the arguments hurled by the plaintiff on Judge Judy are welcome. They represent real people with relatable problems and demand little in the way of personal investment. The news, which is also heavily verbalized, can be too real and cause stress, sometimes even arguments. So a silly game show or soap opera provides just enough engagement—but not too much.
It’s true, most old folks are neither deaf, blind, nor stupid but all deserve to be granted the liberty to choose the shows they watch. Respect their choices as they respected yours when all you wanted to watch was the Flintstones, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Some of the interest in these shows is psychological (I’m grateful these aren’t my problems) and some are physiological (hooray, I can see/hear what’s going on). But the bottom line is, they have different needs than you. Honor that.