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Ask Slashdot: Video Streaming For the Elderly? 165

First time accepted submitter ChrisC1234 writes "My grandparents are getting older and don't get out much anymore, and with the demise of video stores (and not even understanding what a RedBox is), they don't see movies anymore. They've got internet access, so I'm thinking of getting them a streaming appliance and a Netflix account. So I'm wondering what device is the easiest for elderly people to use. I'm thinking either a Roku or Apple TV, but open to other options. It just needs to be easy to navigate and support closed captioning. Has anyone else done this successfully?"
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Ask Slashdot: Video Streaming For the Elderly?

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  • Apple TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamwhoiamtoday ( 1177507 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:10PM (#44278863)

    The Apple TV setup is simple and straightforward. Minimal controls mean less things to mess up. My grandparents are getting up there, and they rarely mess it up with Netflix Streaming.

    • Re:Apple TV (Score:5, Informative)

      by gyrf ( 530771 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:19PM (#44278919)
      As far as I can tell, my Apple TV 2 doesn't do subtitles on Netflix. My Roku 2 XS does. That may make your decision for you. That aside, the Apple TV has a more consistent interface that is less likely to confuse non-tech-savvy users like your grandparents.
      • Re:Apple TV (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:55PM (#44279161)
        The Apple TV 2 supports closed captioning in Netflix. Simply hold down the select button on the remote for several seconds and a captioning menu pops up. I second Apple TV. I introduced it to a retired neighbor who was growing increasingly irate at the endless bombardment of repeating commercials on cable. They absolutely love it.
        • Re:Apple TV (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @09:17PM (#44280947) Homepage

          Sounds like the kind of "secret handshake" that no senior citizen would be able to cope with.

          This sort of nonsense is why a "simple" interface really isn't.

          This should be a global option in any video interface. If you find yourself fumbling to control this on a per video basis then the interface design is crap.

          It doesn't matter how much you want to add to the mindless hype.

          • by Dzimas ( 547818 )
            I agree that Netflix should make the CC setting global. That said, I strongly disagree with your ageist assertion that "no senior citizen could cope." I loaned our Apple TV 2 to a retired neighbor for a week recently, just so he could put Netflix through its paces. He liked it so much that he went out and bought his own. He's not terribly computer savvy, so the most challenging aspect of the process was configuring the WiFi, iTunes and Netflix logins. He called me and left a message asking for help, but fig
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by anubi ( 640541 )
            I am going to speak as a senior citizen... as I am one.

            Movies and music... yes, once they were a big part of my life. Now they are not. I have other things I would rather do than mess with pre-recorded "entertainment". I would much rather roll my own.

            Once AM radio ( and its DJ, which I considered a personal friend ) was almost my god. The DJ is gone, replaced by a pre-recorded script. I would not even think of asking him to play anything for me - he can't - he is owned by the media ( clear-channel
            • Oh come on, you of all people should have snuck in a "now get off my damned lawn" in there. ;-)

            • Movies have got so full of terribly boring repetitive ads which make my blood pressure boil upon the relentless pestering and consuming my time.

              I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Are you talking about watching movies on *commercial TV*? If so, then you should be watching the movies via other means (HBO, DVD/BluRay, streaming services), so they're without commercials. Plus, you're not seeing the ENTIRE movie if you watch it on a commercial channel. (1) It's edited for time, to make it fit (wit

      • Note that only newer Rokus do subtitles. The first gen Rokus do not support them.

        I was going to suggest a smart television - it doesn't get much easier than that - hit the Netflix button, and there you are. Now your grandparents are going to have to figure out how to switch HDMI inputs to watch a movie (depending on how tech savory your grandparents are - mine could hardly figure out how to use a remote).

        Sadly, I don't think smart televisions support closed captions.

        I think Hulu supports closed captions as

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by meta-monkey ( 321000 )

      The problem with the AppleTV paradigm is that the most prominent placement of "Movies" is the top navigation bar, and that's for the stuff tied into iTunes (either exorbitant pay-once fee, or exorbitant 24-hour rental fee).

      I find that those unfamiliar with technology often have difficulty understanding the concept that there are multiple ways to accomplish the same goal, that programs or appliances can do more than one thing, and that the same (or similar) things can be done by multiple programs. OP may win

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

        (Also....the fuck? Isn't this slashdot? What the hell kind of a question is "which closed source non-free software appliance should I buy to pay for DRMed content?")

        While I get what you're saying, I think if the question were "which free, open-source software appliance will my grandparents be able to use and be recognizable enough other people might be able to help them if something goes wrong?" there wouldn't be anything to discuss.

        On the plus side, I just learned my Roku can do subtitles. I did not know that, and since we just had a new kid, my wife and I will really want to try that out. whether or not the OP gets what he needs, I just got an immensely beneficial pi

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The question should never be "which solution should i pick" but simply "which solution should i pick, given these requirements..."

          Theres certainly open source software out there that solves problems just as/better than the closed source counterparts - and vice versa. Saying that all open software requires someone technical to help is kinda just as naive as saying all open source software just works for grandma. Ofcourse one can be politically/morally against one or the other type (or certain companies/open

        • by shilly ( 142940 )

          Congrats on the new baby! A moses basket with a sheepskin liner worked really well for us for family movie time.... baby sleeping peacefully while we watched. Happy memories. I can also strongly recommend this excellent book which meant we had a wonderful, calm time with our baby, completely unlike what we had been told to expect.


      • Does Apple TV have a password option? I know the Roku does, and since it asks for a password for everything that costs extra, yet no password for everything that doesn't cost extra, it makes it easy to differentiate.
      • What the hell kind of a question is "which closed source non-free software appliance should I buy to pay for DRMed content?"

        The cost of recording a music album with quality comparable to commercial releases has fallen to a "prosumer" level, which allows a dedicated hobbyist to record an album without "how am I going to recoup the cost of production?" necessarily hanging over his head. Until the same happens to the writing, directing, cinematography, acting, and set and prop design of feature films, there won't be any viable alternative to the MPAA, and MPAA studios have made a business decision to apply digital restrictions mana

        • Either that, or crowdfunding. Even for $200 million dollar blockbusters, enough people would go ahead and kick in $10 for, I don't know, Iron Man 4 or whatever, and once it's done, it's made freely available to everyone.

        • What the hell kind of a question is "which closed source non-free software appliance should I buy to pay for DRMed content?"

          The cost of recording a music album with quality comparable to commercial releases has fallen to a "prosumer" level, which allows a dedicated hobbyist to record an album without "how am I going to recoup the cost of production?" necessarily hanging over his head. Until the same happens to the writing, directing, cinematography, acting, and set and prop design of feature films, there won't be any viable alternative to the MPAA, and MPAA studios have made a business decision to apply digital restrictions management to their works.

          Well given Hollywood's creative accounting [] ways that may never [] happen.

    • by baenpb ( 1343241 )
      I have no experience with Apple TV but I would say the same about roku. I'm a programmer in my 20s, and I get flustered by remotes with way too many buttons; i could imagine it would be worse if i was unaccustomed to electronics. Roku remote is simple, the (FEW) buttons are large and well labeled, and as long as there aren't too many apps installed, your grandparents should be able to easily find netflix.
  • by Oysterville ( 2944937 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:11PM (#44278867)
    I know that you didn't ask about which service to choose, but given their age perhaps the long library of older TV shows offered by Hulu might be a better choice. They've got many shows from the 50's that might appeal to them more.
    • I think that, generally, Netflix still has tons more content (and no commercials)[0], but the good news is that pretty much every major device these days will support both -- so really, you can separate the device choice from the service choice (and the service is month-to-month anyway). Consider sitting with them and surfing the respective websites for the two services, and seeing where they find more interesting stuff to watch.

      [0] I'm biased, given my employer

    • by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @06:13PM (#44280077) Homepage Journal

      I'm watching The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix right now. Eight seasons with 30+ episodes per. I saw Leave it to Beaver too. Netflix library is getting bigger all the time. They just added Antiques Roadshow and lots of other PBS content.

  • by stormpunk ( 515019 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:12PM (#44278871)

    No, nobody has ever set up a Roku successfully. Netflix is a fad.

    WTF is up with these ask slashdot questions? If it's not "give me teh codez" then it's "I've got a leaky faucet, is that a thing that's fixable or do I need a new house".

    • I actually laughed out loud at this one, thanks.
    • by az1324 ( 458137 )

      1. Ask a question that will likely result in lots of comments featuring buzzwords and brand names and personal anecdotes.
      2. Get good page rank.
      3. Leverage that page rank with advertisers.
      4. $

  • by vinn ( 4370 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:13PM (#44278885) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps get them a TV with Netflix already built into it? Something like a Samsung?

    I think the key is to set up the remote properly so they can access everything using a minimal number of remote controls, preferably just one. I think that's what confuses most people.. hell it even confuses me.

    • Yup, if my 3 year old can start her cartoons in Netflix on our Samsung TV, I'm sure your parents can do it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I would not be so sure - they might, but 3 year olds are a lot more interrested in learning how to get things "their way" than old people, most old people will just yell and complain till they get their way (and there is nothing wrong with that, most old people are not as adventorous and want to learn new stuff as a 3yo) ofcourse you also have 3y olds who will just yell and complain, and you will have old people who are interrested in learning and/or using tech.

        • "most old people will ..."

          You understand the description following that was one that applies to the general /. commenter audience, right?
      • My 3 year old starts his netflix cartoons on a Roku. But then again he also does that on a dual-boot pc...
        • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @09:29PM (#44281009) Homepage

          My kid loved MythTV when he was 3 years old. The young are not the users you have to worry about. Even the old aren't necessarily a problem.

          It's the lazy/helpless types that are a problem and these come in all age groups. You may find an 80 year old that's much more adaptable to modern computing tech than some 60 year old.

          The assumption that Granny can't handle tech is a stupid incorrect stereotype.

  • what my parents use (Score:4, Interesting)

    by miowpurr ( 1004277 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:15PM (#44278893) Homepage
    Both of my parents (born in 1940) have their own iPad with the Netflix app installed. That way they can watch whatever they want, at whatever volume they need, and not fight over what to watch.
    • No more fighting over the remote, no complex wiring. No remote at all even - they can just touch the movies they want and it plays.

      That is, if they don't mind holding their screen. If they really really want to use their large-screen TV an iPad may not be the best option, or maybe there's some iPad + Apple TV setup for Netflix?
      • Air Sharing works great with AppleTV. Use the iPad to pick the movie then share it to the TV. Drains the iPad but works fine.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      That's a good one. For a little cheaper, the Kindle Fire can also do Netflix. Smaller screen, I think. Also, either we're having some bad luck or it's a little buggy. The Netflix app crashes on us now and then when we're browsing and we've got to reopen it. Once streaming starts it's generally solid, it's the search interface that causes problems.

      • by bluec ( 1427065 )
        Yep Kindle Fire, or my choice the Nook HD which has HDTV HDMI output (via special connector). The Nook is on fire sale at the moment so worth consideration.
    • by kgskgs ( 938843 )

      I second to that. Exact same situation and solution. My parents, both born in 40s, have iPads with netflix installed. Yes, high cost one time. But that one device gives them all, weather, newspapers, TV, video chat, pictures of whole family, games. They were not that computer literate and were not fond of computers before. But now love their iPads.

    • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @05:55PM (#44279967) Homepage

      Married for 40 years and he sill has an opinion on what he wants to watch?

  • This is a combo DVD/Blu-Ray wifi internet connected device. I got it solely for the blu-ray player, but discovered how convenient the internet connection is. A netflix interface is built in. The remote control even has a "netflix" button. There's a tiny bit of setup that you can do, and after that, my over-70 mother can operate it just fine. It also has interfaces for hulu, vudu, and music services like pandora and slacker built in. I used to hook my laptop up to the tv to watch netflix, but no more.
  • I'm not sure the devices are there yet, but [] would allow you to make a custom experience. Why this in particular? The elderly relative could be infirm to the level where they can't adequately type into application in order to look for something. They may instead prefer to click on things they are familiar with. Namely channels. Radio stations are nearly all fully represented online so the "live" experience is unchanged from the FM/AM broadcast one. TV - not so much yet. The adde
  • I have Roku and use it with Amazon Video (among other stuff).

    It's pretty easy to use. Just make sure their TV is set to the right video input source and that it stays there. You don't want a late night phone call trying to explain how to switch between HDMI1, HDMI2, AV, TV ...

    • Another Roku owner here. Me and my wife use it for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and MP4's on USB sticks. The remote is very simple and the user interface is to.
    • Get a Harmony Remote and it will switch the inputs for you.

  • A smart TV is what I would get them. It is completely self contained, no extra box, no extra remote. They have Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and even Vudu I believe.

  • In the time of their lives when their faculties are declining, you're going to hook them to a brain-rotting spigot of drivel. Why not get them Kindles?

    • Same reason it's hard to get opiates until you're terminal.

  • A used Wii ($99 at your local GameStop) loaded up with NetFlix and Hulu will do everything you need.

    My three-year-olds can use it, and they can't even read.

    It's also a heck of a lot cheaper than any of the other solutions, too, and it's totally zero-maintenance. And if/when they break it, it's a tiny cost
    to just get a new one.

  • Least troublesome would be a Tivo. We gave the grandparents one 10 years ago and they took to it with absolutely no trouble at all. Including using Netflix for viewing. The menu structure just never gets them lost. And the remote it likewise straightforward to use. Sure, there's a monthly subscription for it, but the convenience and lack of support calls back to me is totally worth it (for both me and them).

    They use an iPad for just about everything else. They could use that for Netflix viewing but pr

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      No. The least troublesome would be something that doesn't even try to be a PVR anymore.

      A streamer is even simpler. Less useless cruft to get in the way.

  • Consider WD TV Play (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuego451 ( 958976 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @04:01PM (#44279173) Journal
    I'm a great-grandfather so I suppose I'd qualify as 'elderly', though I have no idea what that word means and I don't like it. I have several streaming devices but only one that I'd recommend for people of any age who are technically challenged and that's the WD (Western Digital) TV Play. Much like the Roku and Apple TV, the WD is small, easy to set up and less expensive than the Roku and Apple; a big plus for us 'elderly' on fixed incomes. I'm currently using it on an older HD TV and it has never given me any problems and doesn't do any weird shit on its own; like my streaming blu ray player does. Oh, and did I tell you it runs imbedded Linux? How could you possibly go wrong?
    • I'm in my mid-twenties and recently moved from a linux HTPC to a WD TV Live (slightly larger and more expensive as the Play). My kids use it for Netflix and I use it to stream my 2TB Media collection off my primary workstation over the network via NFS.

      It has its quirks, but it does work majority of the time. My biggest issue is that HDMI-CEC doesnt seem to work. That may be my 6+ year old Samsung TV being tempermental, though. For the $100 I paid I really cannot complain.

    • I intend no offense to you personally feugo451, but taking a few of your words out of context:

      though I have no idea what that word means and I don't like it.

      strikes me as a rather good recursive definition of elderly in its own right. :)

      • Yeah, I really shouldn't paraphrase funny quotes from old movies. My real senior moment is forgetting there are mostly young folks here who haven't a clue.
  • by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @04:05PM (#44279193)
    Buy them Roku 3, and somewhere, anywhere, with a good internet connection, install Plex Media Server. It is amazing how transparent and how easy to use this solution is.
  • My parents are both in their late sixties and are very capable when it comes to technology. However, the village they live in the broadband speed is so slow none of these services can be used. All they have is sky or ALLOT of buffering. I have the same problem my broadband is so slow 3G seems like light speed!! (I'm in the U.K.)
  • A PS3 is your best bet and offers the biggest bang for the buck. You can download and install Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, plus it has a text and if you add on a web cam, you can access the AV Chat feature.

    While they may not be interested in games, the built in Blue Ray DVD player is top of the line so it can double as their DVD player for movies as well.

  • Myth TV (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @04:17PM (#44279269) Homepage Journal

    MythTV. A rule of thumb in setting up any system is to put yourself in the place of the user.

    By the time you get it working, you'll be as old as they are now. (drrrTISH!!!)

  • I recommend that they check out Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.
  • iPad -- Nufsed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by m6ack ( 922653 ) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @05:13PM (#44279665)

    If you are interested in no fuss, get your elderly parent an iPad. They will love it with Netflix streaming because they can make it as close to their eyes as necessary for them, and they -- and they can get a good quality pair of headphones (with inductive coupling to the hearing aid, possibly) to make it eaisier for them to hear. And yes, the ipad app has captioning.

    When they are more comfortable, they will download books and recipies, and love it because the paper won't take up much space in their home and they can enlarge the text to exactly what they want. They will be delighted when they figure out how best to do video chat with you (whether that might be Facetime or otherwise) for "free."

    And for you, once her internet connection is up and running, the purchase will be a "painless" one for support... no need to configure the device for her, no need to "set the clock on the DVD player" or what have you... You will be free to have conversations about more important things for your life.

    This is from a long time Linux geek whose 70+ year old mom is pleased as punch with her iPad. Even though I am a die-hard Linux guy & would rather have myself on the latest and greatest Linux-ish device -- her happiness & piece of mind is worth a lot to me. This makes her happy.

  • Why isn't anyone recommending the Pi? OpenElec seems to be good and headed in the right direction. Not having a remote (using a website) seems easier... am I missing something?
    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      yea netflix doesnt work on linux, and no one wants to fuck with a website to change the tv

    • For not much more than the cost of a Pi (plus all the required accessories), if not the same cost, there are plenty of alternatives on the market that do a far better job.

      I love tinkering with hardware and software as much as the next guy, but when I come home from work I enjoy the ease of use my WDTV Live provides. It's simple to use and supports Netflix along with various other streaming services. And the OP could even provide USB sticks now and again loaded with MKVs for his grandparents to view.

  • Lots of channel options, the new UI is pretty simple and it should integrate well with an HD TV.

    I don't like the Ipad for this - 10" screen is too small to share watching a film with a spouse.

    Another good option would be a smart TV.

  • Any Android tablet will do everything you mentioned. For $200 you can get a Nook HD 9+ with an HDMI adapter.

  • For $100 there are dvd players with streaming internet services built in, WiFi and all. This permits streaming or physical DVD options.

    My library has a pile of DVDs even music CDs to loan.

    This technology changes so quick that a smart player, even X-box can prove better than a smart TV.

  • I have an Apple TV and a DVD player with streaming, and I have hit 25gig cap easily each month. My iPad streams nonATV streams via AirPlay so I don't miss anything.

  • I use a Wii to watch netflix. It connects to the TV just fine. The controller is a litte bouncy, though, when you're too far from the TV. My wife has Parkinson's, so this is a bit of an issue, but she can still manage to use it from the opposite corner of the room, where she likes to sit.

    And an added benefit is that she uses WiiFit and similar games. Some of them are excellent balance exercises. Others involve the large body movements that seem to be good as slowing the progression of the disease.


  • It really depends on exactly what the people in question are looking to do and what they are comfortable with. For instance, do they pretty much want to watch "Something", or do they have particular tastes and will request access to different media from multiple sources.

    The first major decision basically comes down to form-factor - will they best enjoy a tablet that they can carry around with them (possibly usable for other things like acting as an e-reader), and generally keep close by? Or do they have a

  • One of the reasons video stores closed was the cable companies were able to offer 'video on demand.'

    Here in Canada, you just push the 'On Demand' button on your cable company's remote and presto there's a video store, with both free and rental content, available for you. I assume it must be the same in the USA? Why don't you start them with that?

    There's even free telephone technical support.
  • The OP talks about getting a system that he can easily get his "old" grandparents up and using, because they are too "old" to grasp systems that are relatively cutting edge.

    Just how old is "old" in everybody's mind? I know this is /. so I expect the answer to be an embarrassingly small number.

    I am 70, and I am the technical guru for my family and friends, who are mostly younger.
  • The best device for elderly relatives to use is a younger relative. Admittedly they are plagued by unreliability issues, tend to borrow the car without asking, and expect a large inheritance. Still, it was an accepted mode of living not too long ago.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter