Sign In This Curious Life

Sign in

Through the Eyes of Lis, 83, UK: TV Viewing Insights

June 2024 – Interview by George Lee

Themes: Entertainment, Television

Through the Eyes of Lis, 83, UK:
TV Viewing Insights

This Curious Life talks to Lis, a thoughtful and warm 83-year-old living in the North West of the UKWith five children, several grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, Lis has a wealth of life experience to share. She earned her degree at 42, qualifying at 46 and spent the rest of her working life as a teacher. Even after retiring, she continued to mentor and coach children locally. She rarely watches live TV, preferring catch-up apps, her iPad, and Alexa to choose what and when she watches. Lis shares her thoughts on ageism in TV content, what’s great about current technology, and what could be improved. Given her visual disability, accessibility is essential for her. 

Lis watching TV on her ipad while watching TV

Lis watching TV on her Ipad

TCL. How do you watch films and TV? Do you use Netflix, Amazon, terrestrial TV, your phone, or the cinema? What works best for you? 

Lis. I have macular degeneration and am registered as visually impaired, with poor vision in one eye and very limited vision in the other. While I have TVs at home, I mostly keep the news on because I enjoy its magazine format. They frequently update with interesting stories, like the Icelandic volcano eruption, and the images are phenomenal. If I’m not near the TV, I use Alexa to listen to listen to the news on the radio, providing background company while I go about my day. If something catches my attention, I can check the TV. 

I don’t watch much live TV unless my kids visit and we watch something together. Most of my viewing is catch-up or Netflix, depending on my mood—documentaries, murder shows, antiques programmes whatever I fancy. The best part is not being restricted by TV schedules. 

I’m also part of a book club with other visually impaired members. We listen to books, and I often have my phone in my pocket to listen while doing other things. This has become my go-to entertainment more than TV. 

I often watch TV on my iPad, resting it on my chest so it’s closer to my eyes. It’s comfortable, whether I’m on the sofa or in bed. With all the apps for different stations and Netflix, I have fantastic choices and can watch what I want, when I want. I can pause it to make a cup of tea and return without missing anything. It works perfectly for me. 

Phone with audio book

Because of her macular degeneration Lis often listens to audio books during her day

TCL. Do shows and films portray people of all ages accurately? Are there any stereotypes about older people in the media that bother you? Do you think age is portrayed differently in the West compared to other parts of the world? 

Lis. When I watch TV, whether live, on apps, or Netflix, it’s all about the entertainment for me, so I don’t really focus on people’s ages. However, I’ve noticed that the portrayal of older people has gotten better over the years. I remember the early episodes of Coronation Street, where older women were often depicted as gossipy and nosy. Nowadays, we see actresses like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench taking on such diverse and inspiring roles. Judi Dench in 007 is a fantastic role model, even though I’m not particularly into those movies. 

In places like India and Africa, older individuals are respected and seen as wise, while in the West, they’re often perceived as slow and treated with impatience. Sadly, older people are still a common target for humour here.

And then there is Richard Osman’s books about a retirement village. He has captured the imagination of many older people who maybe long for more adventurous lives. I’m excited about the upcoming film adaptation featuring Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan, and Imelda Staunton—it sounds wonderful! 

There is still however a noticeable difference in how older female actors and presenters are treated. For instance, Sue Barker, (a UK sports presenter), was let go as she got older, despite being excellent at her job. 

It’s interesting to see how older people are viewed differently around the world. In places like India and Africa, older individuals are respected and seen as wise, while in the West, they’re often perceived as slow and treated with impatience. Sadly, older people are still a common target for humour here. 

Overall, while there have been positive changes, I hope to see even more appreciation and respect for older people in media and society. 

 I do believe the TV and film industries should produce more content that targets older audiences. We need more stories about different generations interacting. Programmes showing young people visiting care homes, for instance, highlight the benefits and the wealth of stories older people have to share. It’s a wonderful way to bridge generational gaps and keep family histories alive. 

There’s been some progress, like the film The Father with Anthony Hopkins, which I found very insightful, especially when a friend with dementia came to stay. Such films can educate younger audiences about issues like dementia early on, helping to build understanding and empathy. 

However, I think it often comes down to money. Many in the industry may not believe that content focusing on older adults will be profitable. That’s likely why films based on Richard Osman’s books have been given the go ahead—they’ve proven popular and financially viable. But look at Mamma Mia! with Meryl Streep: it features older actors alongside younger ones and appeals to all ages, showing that multi-generational content can be successful. 

As for daytime ads targeting older people, they can be quite ridiculous. Constant reminders about walking baths, funeral plans, and stairlifts are not necessary. We all know these options exist, but we shouldn’t have to worry about them until we need them. Luckily, I avoid these ads by not watching live TV anymore. Instead of focusing on the end of life, we should enjoy living it! 


TCL.What new features or innovations in TV and media do you find most useful? What do you find challenging? 

Lis. In my daily routine, I rely on my TV, iPad, phone, and Amazon Echo Dot for connection and entertainment. Yet, embracing new technology can sometimes feel daunting. Once I grasp its workings, though, I find genuine satisfaction in its use. As technology advances, offering more features and options, I admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed by the learning process. Nevertheless, I’ve grown fond of my Amazon Echo Dot, despite the initial unease about being heard. There’s a certain charm to its announcements, like when it alerts me to the doorbell ringing! 

However, I do worry about the pervasive nature of technology, particularly for younger generations. I feel a sense of inadequacy in fully understanding its impact.

One aspect I truly appreciate is the convenience of pausing TV or catching up on missed shows. Just recently, I misjudged the timing for Question Time, airing live, and felt a pang of frustration. Yet, the ability to watch it moments after its live broadcast felt like a small miracle—truly remarkable! 

Amazon Echo

Lis's Amazon Echo helps her navigate her entertainment needs

TCL. What advice would you give to companies developing new TV and media technologies about features and capabilities people would like to see in their TVs and media devices? 

 Lis. I believe that prioritising the safety of people of all ages is crucial, especially in our increasingly connected world. Perhaps tech companies could do more to educate users on safety measures across all devices we use for watching programs and films. Additionally, I’m wary of the idea of my TV monitoring me for falls or other health concerns—it feels intrusive. 

Furthermore, it’s essential for technology to be accessible to everyone, including those with eyesight issues like myself. Navigating content is much easier on my iPad due to my eyesight limitations. Using the TV remote to browse programs requires me to be practically on top of the screen, which isn’t ideal. I hope that future advancements in technology will consider and address these accessibility challenges. 



More Information

Curious about how to get involved?

If you would like to be interviewed as we explore all aspects of our lives in This Curious Life, then join our Voice community of people around the world offering their wisdom and life experiences. These insights will help us design better solutions for everyone.