Many elderly people love spending a part of their day watching their favorite TV shows or series. However, many of them can’t really enjoy watching TV for various reasons. I know from experience that finding the best TV for seniors is not always an easy task, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you’re in a hurry and just need some quick tips, here are the best TVs for seniors you can’t go wrong with:
- Sceptre 50 inches Slim 1080p LED HDTV
- Toshiba 49 inches Class LED 1080p HDTV
- Any 1080p+ HDR TV with a large enough screen
- OLED TVs with a larger screen
As a rule of thumb, the simpler the TV and the remote, the better for seniors. If you have to choose between a smart and a non-smart TV with similar specifications, choose the latter.
However, before purchasing a brand new TV, you should try tweaking the picture and sound settings of the existing one. Below you will find more details on how to do it exactly.
Click here if you want to jump right to the best TV models.
Most Common Reasons Elderly People Can’t Enjoy Watching TV
Usually, there are four main reasons seniors can’t fully enjoy watching TV:
Hearing loss: Many seniors suffer from some degree of age-related hearing loss and some of them don’t even know about it because of its slow progression.
Seniors with age-related hearing loss have difficulties understanding higher-frequency voices and certain words (especially those containing high-pitched sounds) in a sentence.
Background noise can make it even more difficult for people with hearing impairment to enjoy watching TV.
Poor vision: This is another widespread health issue among elderly people that can have many causes. Unfortunately, the most common conditions (glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy) can considerably affect the experience during watching TV and medical treatment is the only way to achieve any significant improvement.
Incorrect TV settings: Sometimes changing sound mode or tweaking the picture settings leads to significant improvements. It’s especially true when the settings are not adjusted according to the environment of the TV. Fortunately, basic picture and sound settings are available on all kinds of TVs and can be adjusted in no time.
The TV is too complicated to use or the remote control has tiny buttons: Nowadays TVs are getting more and more complicated to use for older people. Even if it’s not a smart TV, chances are its settings menu is too complex for seniors to make adjustments according to their needs.
Another common problem is that elderly people often suffer from both coordination issues and presbyopia (they can’t see things that are too close clearly). These conditions make it pretty difficult for them to find and press small buttons on the remote control.
As you can see, in many cases buying a brand new TV is not necessary. The best TV for seniors sometimes can be the one they already own. Often, just by tweaking the settings, you can get much better results.
However, if you really need a new TV, check the recommended models below.
The Best TV Settings for Seniors – Improvements in Minutes
Recommended Distance for TV Watching
Elderly people tend to sit closer to their TV due to poor vision or hearing loss. Though watching TV at a very close distance won’t do any permanent damage to one’s eyes, it sometimes can lead to eye strain and eye fatigue (source). These conditions negatively affect elderly people’s vision thus watching TV becomes less enjoyable for them.
The recommended distance from the TV depends on the resolution and the size of the screen (manufacturers always mean the diameter of the screen by the screen size).
The higher the resolution the closer you can sit without noticing the small pixels that make up the picture. On the other hand, the bigger the screen the higher the distance you should sit from the TV.
According to Crutchfield the ideal seating distance for 1080p HDTVs is between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 times the screen size. For 4K Ultra HD TVs, the best viewing distance is between 1 to 1-1/2 times the screen size. So, for example, if you have a 1080p HDTV with a 50 inches screen, you should sit at least 6.3 feet away from it.
In the case of lower-resolution TVs, the recommended seating distance is 3-5 times the screen size.
However, these numbers are valid for healthy adults. Seniors who are prone to eye strain and fatigue should sit at a greater distance from the TV to avoid these conditions.
For the best experience, always consider the viewing angle of the TV when placing it. The viewing angle is the maximum angle at which the TV screen can be watched without any significant image quality loss. It varies among different models but you can always check it on the internet or in the user’s manual. If you watch the TV out of its viewing angle, you’ll experience poor contrast, desaturated colors, and blurry images.
Recommended Picture Settings
In general, seniors will get the best results with the following picture settings:
Picture mode: Natural, Movie, or Cinema
Sharpness: 0% (on most TV models it’s the default setting – just drag the slider to the middle if it’s not there)
Color temperature: warm (cooler temperature means more blue light that can cause eye strain and suppress the secretion of melatonin which can lead to sleep problems).
You also should turn off any “Eco” or “Energy Savings” mode as they will automatically adjust brightness and contrast to reduce energy consumption. If you’re interested in how much electricity a TV uses, check out this article where I compared the energy consumption of 357 different TV models.
For seniors with cataracts or glaucoma, high-contrast settings can lead to a better experience. Also, it’s worth playing with the brightness: higher brightness usually results in a better experience for people with cataracts.
Recommended Sound Settings for Seniors
On most TVs, you can change between sound modes easily. For seniors with hearing loss, the best choice is “News” or “Speech” mode. These make voices clearer and easier to understand.
Besides, you should also change the EQ (equalizer) settings: turn down the bass and up the treble. This way by boosting the higher frequencies, you’ll get clearer dialogues.
The reason why these settings often help is that the majority of older people suffering from hearing loss have difficulties hearing the higher frequency sounds (like human voice). Boosting the higher frequencies on the TV will compensate for the loss to a certain degree. However, if you or any of your elderly loved ones suffer from hearing loss, the first step is always to consult with a health professional.
Unfortunately, most modern flat-screen TVs usually come with poor speakers. That’s why tweaking the sound settings is not always enough. Sometimes for the best results, you should invest in an external device to enhance sound quality while watching TV. I’ll show you the most effective and popular gadgets at the end of the article.
Buying a New TV for Seniors – Useful Considerations
As a rule of thumb, if you want to find the best TV for seniors, always choose a model according to the needs of your elderly loved ones. If they don’t need smart functions or 3D, opt for a TV without those features. Usually, the simpler the better. Unnecessary features just make using the TV more complicated.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a smart TV for tech-savvy seniors who can really take advantage of the numerous functions.
Most seniors prefer watching larger TV screens to smaller ones. It’s especially true for those who suffer from some kind of vision impairment. If there’s not much difference in price and you can afford it, opt for the larger TV. However, always consider the dimensions of the room and the viewing distance. Check the above-mentioned recommended seating distances.
Modern TVs usually come with a complex remote with tiny little buttons. That’s not ideal for seniors at all. I’m sure there are at least a few buttons that you’ve never ever touched on your remote. Now, imagine the number of buttons on an average remote that seniors never use.
The solution to this problem is easy: change the original remote to a universal one with just a few big buttons. You can find many models on Amazon that don’t cost a fortune and do a great job, like this one.
Another, less elegant but effective solution is to cover the buttons that are unnecessary and leave accessible only those that are really important.
Did you know that watching TV in the evening can contribute to falls in the elderly? If you’re concerned about falls, make sure you don’t miss our most useful fall prevention tips in this article.
Best TVs for Seniors
Sceptre 50 inches 1080p LED TV
This one is a non-smart TV without all the unnecessary functions. It provides great picture quality and fine contrast and brightness that result in more in-depth images. Another plus is that it has a more user-friendly interface than most TVs in this category.
The sound quality is not outstanding but for the price it’s okay. However, a senior with hearing issues will probably need either a soundbar or a set of headphones while watching the TV. It has a normal 3.5 mm audio output jack, so it’s compatible with most external speakers but has no Bluetooth capabilities.
Altogether, it’s a great value for the price and with an additional external speaker, it can be a great choice for senior citizens.
Here you can check out current pricing on Amazon.
Toshiba 50-inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV
Although it’s a smart TV, it has a simple and clean menu structure and a remote with only a few buttons that are easy to use for most seniors. It features excellent picture quality with an outstanding contrast ratio (thanks to the Dolby Vision HDR technology). You can easily connect it to Alexa, so seniors can control the TV with their own voice without having to touch the remote.
The built-in speakers have a pretty good sound quality but if you still need to enhance it you can easily connect an external soundbar or headphones to the TV. While it’s true that it’s more expensive than the Spectre model, it’s still a great value for the price.
Check out the current price on Amazon.
TVs with OLED screens are pricey but they’ll give you the best contrast ratio (practically infinite) because they use a different technology than regular LED screens: OLED panels contain self-lightening pixels (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) that can be controlled individually. In contrast, the pixels of regular LED screens are illuminated by a backlight. That’s the reason why OLED TVs offer crystal clear, superior picture quality.
Because of the excellent contrast ratio, there’s no question that the vast majority of visually impaired seniors would have a better experience with OLED TVs. However, if you’re on a budget, just go with a normal LED TV and tweak the picture settings as you’ve read in the first part of the article.
This is a highly popular model with amazing picture and sound quality, artificial intelligence, and Google Assistant so seniors can use their voice to control the TV.
HDR stands for “high dynamic range”, and all it does is make visible small differences in brightness on the screen, so you’ll get more details in both darker and brighter areas of the picture. That’s why the scenes on an HDR TV are closer to real-life experience. The most popular HDR formats are HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
It’s useful to know that HDR TVs will only give you better results with HDR content. So older movies and content will look nearly the same (or just slightly improved) on HDR and non-HDR TVs.
So, do HDR TVs provide a better experience for seniors?
Often they do. The picture is clearer, sharper, and more detailed on HDR TVs. I’ve heard many seniors complaining that so many movies have dark scenes and they can’t really see what’s happening. In this case, increasing the brightness on a non-HDR TV can be a solution, however, it can make lighter areas too bright.
HDR technology solves this problem by displaying more shades (= more details in the shadows) so dark scenes become more visible without changing the light intensity in other areas.
On the other hand, HDR is not essential at all. You can always buy a cheaper normal LED TV without any extra and change the picture settings according to the needs of your elderly loved one.
Best Sound Bars and Headphones for TV for Seniors with Hearing Loss – Improve the Sound Quality with These Useful Accessories
External Soundbar TV Speakers
As I’ve mentioned earlier, most modern flatscreen TVs have pretty poor speakers that are not ideal for seniors with hearing issues. If you want the best TV for seniors, sometimes you will need some extra accessories.
One of the easiest ways to enhance sound quality is to add a reliable external sound bar. Installation is usually pretty simple, most of the time you just have to plug the device into the audio output jack of the TV. However, if you have multiple devices connected to the TV, setup can be a little tricky. Make sure you read the user guide.
Soundbars are made for different purposes. Of course, you can always try to tweak the EQ, but it’s better to choose one that’s made for the sole purpose of enhancing speech (and not music).
ZVOX AccuVoice AV100 is one of the best soundbars that significantly improves speech quality (check out the current price on Amazon). It uses built-in hearing aid technology that isolates voice frequencies and enhances them with the help of advanced algorithms. As a result, dialogues become much clearer and easier to understand.
Sound bars are usually a great solution to enhance the sound quality of the TV, however, listening to them at a high volume can disturb others (family members or neighbors). If this is a concern, seniors have two choices: switch to headphones or bring the speakers close enough so that they can lower the volume.
The Audio Fox Wireless TV Speakers can be a great solution when a senior doesn’t want to wear headphones but loudspeakers may disturb others. These speakers can be easily attached to the back of the chair or couch and have volume control buttons mounted on them. This way seniors can listen to the TV right next to their ears without having to wear headphones while enjoying the same experience at a much lower volume. Get them on Amazon here.
Wireless Headphones for TV
A wireless headphone comes in handy when background noise or loudspeakers are an issue. They give the best sound experience but not all seniors like them as they may feel isolated from the environment.
There are a great variety of wireless headphones in the stores but usually, they can be divided into two groups: the ones that use infrared radio frequencies and those that work with Bluetooth.
If you want a set of Bluetooth headphones, it’s important to check before buying whether the TV is Bluetooth capable. If not, you will need an additional Bluetooth transmitter that you will have to plug into the output jack of the TV.
The wireless Sennheiser RS 195 headphones offer really convincing sound quality and special technology to enhance speech intelligibility. They adapt to personal listening needs and let you choose between different listening modes. For seniors with hearing loss selecting “Speech Mode” will result in reduced background noise and clearer dialogues.
TV Ears is a well-known and popular brand on the market, and it’s a cheaper alternative to the Sennheiser model. It’s easy to use for seniors and it reduces background noise significantly while ensuring a clear sound. You can get current pricing here.
The Neosonic Mini RIC Digital Hearing Amplifier is a hearing aid but it offers similarly great results to headphones while being considerably smaller in size. Its lightweight design makes it comfortable to wear and less noticeable than a headphone. Seniors suffering from hearing loss can not only benefit from it during watching TV but also in everyday conversations.
Summary: Finding the Best TV for Seniors In a Nutshell
Finding the best TV for seniors is not always an easy task. TVs are getting more complicated each year which can make elderly people’s life harder.
As a first step, you can try tweaking the settings of the existing television: picture and sound quality often can be significantly improved within just a few minutes.
Also, you can use different accessories according to the needs of your elderly loved one: soundbars or headphones for better sound quality or a simple universal remote with just a few big buttons.
Before buying, always ask the opinion of your loved ones, and keep in mind their special needs. This is the way you can make watching TV amusing again for them.