Older Folks Watch More TV but Like It Less

From Long-Term Living:

According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a study by

researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine concluded that older people spent a great deal more time watching TV than younger people did, yet they enjoyed the experience less.

The study looked at 3,092 Americans, aged 15 to 98, in survey data collected in 2006. Adults over 65 reported spending three times more of their waking hours watching TV than did younger adults. Older adults did not seem to experience the same “stress buffering” effects that younger adults did from watching TV, and TV use among older adults‰ÛÓunlike time spent on other leisure activities, such as socializing or physical exercise‰ÛÓwas related to lower life satisfaction.

Data from other studies indicate that the average American household spends 4.5 hours watching TV per day and, in those over age 65, about 25% percent of their time is spent watching TV.

Recent work suggests that sedentary activity, such as TV watching, is associated with negative changes in many aspects of health including cardiovascular, bone health, and cellular function. Television use in particular has been linked with greater risk for obesity and Type2 diabetes, lower life satisfaction, less frequent engagement in social and physical interaction, and increased risk for dementia.

The researchers concluded that increasing public awareness of alternatives to TV watching and reducing barriers to alternative activities that are more socially and physically engaging could reduce TV use in older people and diminish the potential for associated negative health effects.

OK, I didn’t need a study to tell me this. If I call my 88-year-old mom and she is home and she is watching TV, I know this already. She is bored and borderline depressed because she has nothing to do.

An activity director told me once that there were three kinds of people in her assisted living facility. The go goes, slow goes and no goes. Go goes will do anything and are always active. Slow goes need prodding and will participate. And you can guess what the no goes do. I think all people, not just older, fall into one of these categories. Unfortunately some older go goes may not be capable of going because of some ailment. No goes probably choose to stay home and TV watching is a byproduct. For those capable of getting out sometimes there is not a social network to avail themselves of or transport to go somewhere. And for those staying in unfortunately many face lonliness.

This gets back to very basic points I make in my keynote The Meaning of Life. Staying active is the key to an older quality of life. And having friends and a broad social network has been shown to have health benefits. Remember that how you live today will determine how you prosper or not tomorrow. And for those elder shut in at home, we all have a responsibility to look in on them and be involved in their lives.