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The Mature View: An insight into the viewing habits of the over 60s

12th June 2018

According to a report by Statista, viewers in the UK watch more hours of television as they get older, but have streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer become as popular with the over 60s as it is with millennials?

For older people with mobility problems who need to use stairlifts around the home, it can be difficult getting out of the house and so naturally, they watch more TV. This research was conducted to delve deeper into the viewing habits of the over 60s, by asking more than 500 over 60s a series of questions about their favourite TV shows, streaming services and what makes them turn off their televisions.

65% of over 60s have binge-watched a show


Binge-watching TV programmes has long been associated with millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996. However our survey results show that over 60s also love watching their favourite shows back-to-back, with 65% admitting to watching more than two episodes in a row.

While it can be all too tempting to watch yet another episode of your favourite TV series (and let’s face it, Netflix doesn’t help matters by instantly playing the next episode), it can be detrimental to our health. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that binge-watching among young people aged 18-25 can cause insomnia, poor sleep quality and fatigue. Research has also suggested that too much TV can affect your memory. However, Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, told Business Insider that he believes this could also be true for older people:

“It’s not only young people who are binge-watching – we’re starting to see it creep up into the older population too. The danger with that is that young people recover easier, but they also just in general sleep better than the older population. I would predict that if this study was done on people who were age 55 to 70, then what we would see is an even poorer quality of sleep associated with binge-watching.”

BBC iPlayer is the preferred streaming service among over 60s


Our survey revealed that people over 60 often use streaming services. BBC iPlayer was the firm favourite, with 66.8% of respondents claiming to use the service, followed by ITV Hub (formerly ITV Player) (43.6%), All 4 (formerly 4oD)  (22.6%), Netflix (21.2%), Amazon Prime (17.8%), Sky Go (14.6%) and Now TV (7.2%).

The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) recently produced a detailed study revealing changes in the ways people watch TV, called ‘The Viewing Report’. According to BARB, Netflix is now in 8.2 million UK households, however, its impressive 25% growth last year (1.6 million new subscriptions) was beaten by Amazon Prime, which boosted its subscriber base by a whopping 41%, to 4.3 million. Now TV was also highlighted, as it grew 40% to reach 1.5 million UK households. BARB’s report estimates that 36% of UK households have these streaming services.

The Viewing Report revealed that ‘hardly anyone’ watched the latest series of crime drama The Tunnel, live. Only 3% of the audience of nearly 900,000 watched the show at its scheduled broadcast time. According to a report by iNews, all six episodes of the British-French thriller were aired in December by Sky Atlantic and 70% of viewing was ‘on demand’ as fans ‘binged’ on the series before or after its broadcast. An additional 27% recorded the show to watch later.

Over 26% of over 60s regularly use streaming services


Although over 60s seem to be open to trying the latest streaming services, only 26.2% actually use them regularly, 43.8% sometimes use them and 30% claim to never use modern streaming services, such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer or Amazon Prime. This shows that while Netflix and Amazon appear to be dominating the market in the UK (with 4.3 million British households signed up to Amazon Prime), the over 60s don’t follow this trend.

The BBC, Channel 4 and ITV have also held discussions recently about joining forces to create a new British streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon on home turf. A source told The Guardian: “All options are open, they are early conversations and no direction is firm yet. But they know a video-on-demand platform play would be a true defence for the UK creative industries.” Another source described the potential service as a “public service broadcaster domestic competitor to Netflix”. As over 60s appear to prefer the likes of BBC iPlayer and 4OD, this partnership could prove fruitful.

26% of over 60s watched Game of Thrones


The study asked survey respondents to reveal whether they’d watched some of the most popular TV series of recent years. Despite containing violence and nudity, hit series Game of Thrones proved popular among 26% of over 60s, who said they’d watched the programme. 19.4% said they’d seen The Walking Dead, and 17.2% revealed they’d seen Breaking Bad. Over 60s also admitted to having seen one of Netflix’s biggest hits, Stranger Things, with 9.2% of respondents having watched it. These results are somewhat surprising when, as discussed in depth later on, 13.4% of over 60s would turn off their TV due to nudity/sexual content, 20% would switch off due to bad language and 18.4% would hit the switch due to violence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 57.2% of over 60s watched Downton Abbey, which ended on Christmas Day 2015. And 37% of respondents admitted to watching Friends, which aired between 1994 and 2004.

Earlier in 2018, Netflix revealed a list of its top 10 most binge-watched shows:

  1. Orange is the New Black
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. The Walking Dead
  4. Stranger Things
  5. House of Cards
  6. Sons of Anarchy
  7. Fuller House
  8. American Horror Story
  9. Family Guy
  10. Grey’s Anatomy

This data by Netflix merged with our over 60s statistics reveals that not only is the older generation binge-watching their favourite shows, they’re also completely on trend when it comes to which shows they’re choosing.

95% of over 60s mostly watch their favourite shows on a television


Despite rapidly-developing technology (tablets, larger smartphones) designed to make watching our favourite TV shows more accessible, an overwhelming 95% of over 60s still mostly watch programmes on a television. This contradicts recent data which showed that consumers used smartphone and tablet apps more than desktop computers to browse online in 2017. In fact, in March 2018, 6.5 million adults visited the BBC iPlayer app to watch video on either a smartphone or tablet, according to a recent study, and the ITV Hub attracted some 2.4 million viewers on the apps. However, as over 60s overwhelmingly still watch their favourite TV programmes on a good old-fashioned TV, should the market be wary of alienating an ever-growing demographic? The research suggests that while it’s essential that businesses put their efforts into improving online viewing, they should also ensure that more traditional TV viewing isn’t left behind.

Strictly Come Dancing the most popular reality TV show for over 60s, but over 19% watch Big Brother too


Contrary to what older stereotypes would have you believe, the over 60s have actually tuned into a wide range of reality TV programmes, even 4.4% of respondents confessed to having watched ITV’s Love Island, although it’s not 100% their type on paper. Interestingly, 6% of over 60s have watched The Only Way Is Essex, and Made in Chelsea. However it is perhaps unsurprising that 58.6% of over 60s have watched Strictly Come Dancing, and 48.4% tuned in to Britain’s Got Talent.

Although the numbers are small, it’s noteworthy that ‘millennial’ reality TV programmes are appealing somewhat to the older demographic, and that the stereotype of all older people not understanding the appeal of reality TV, appears to be somewhat of a myth. A recent study of historic viewing figures by Digital Spy revealed the top 10 most popular reality TV shows in the UK:

  1. Strictly Come Dancing
  2. I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!
  3. The X Factor
  4. Britain’s Got Talent
  5. Great British Bake Off
  6. Pop Idol
  7. Dancing On Ice
  8. The Voice
  9. Any Dream Will Do
  10. I’d Do Anything

TV guide still the most popular way to find out about new TV shows for over 60s


Although the use of the internet has risen, with Internet World Stats showing that the number of internet users around the world has increased from 16 million in 1995 to 4,157 million in 2017, looking at the traditional TV guide is still the method of choice for most over 60s.

Over half (57.8%) of survey respondents said they use the TV guide the most to find out about new TV shows, while TV adverts were the second most popular way of finding out about new shows (23.4%). The survey also highlighted that the internet (8.6%) still has some way to go to becoming the most popular way of finding out about new shows. 6% of over 60s rely on friends and family to find out about new television programmes.

Unclear dialogue and lack of interest in subject matter top reasons to switch off TVs


Bad language, violence and unclear dialogue are among the top reasons why people over the age of 60 turn off their televisions, but according to The Mature View survey, the main reason for many is when the subject matter is not of interest to them, with 84.6% switching off their TV sets for this reason.

Unclear and inaudible dialogue (36.6%) and bad language (20.8%) are also major turn-offs for viewers over the age of 60. Violence (18.4%) and nudity and sexual content (13.4%) will also make older viewers switch off. The results show that over 60s are much more tolerant of nudity and sexual content than violence.

Respondents had the opportunity to tell us about some of their other gripes, which resulted in an interesting mix:

  • Reality TV
  • Advertising
  • Canned laughter
  • Loud sound effects
  • Charles Hanson of Bargain Hunt

28% of over 60s feel many TV programmes stereotype older people


There are so many iconic older people depicted on TV programmes today with the likes of Dot Cotton on EastEnders and Rita Sullivan on Coronation Street just some of the most famous characters on British TVs.

The survey revealed that 50.2% of respondents believe some programmes do a good job, but others need to improve, while 28.2% of over 60s surveyed feel many programmes stereotype older people.

Just 21.6% of respondents feel many television programmes address the real challenges of ageing with sensitivity. This perhaps shows that whilst some TV programmes are doing a good job of fairly depicting older people, there is still lots of room for improvement.

Recently it has been revealed that Take Me Out, the popular ITV dating show, is one of the programmes looking to cater for older people as there will be an over-50s show airing. It will see older ladies go head-to-head for the affections of an eligible bachelor and a trip to Fernandos.

TV has deteriorated according to 43% of over 60s


The age-old debate of whether television is better now than it used to be is a discussion that has taken place in households up and down the UK.

The Mature View survey has the final results and 43% of over 60s feel that TV has deteriorated over the last 20 years. It just pipped an improvement in television as 42% of those surveyed felt TV is better now than it used to be. Just 15% of respondents feel there has been no change in quality.

Much of the media, however, feel that the quality of television programmes has improved over the past 15-20 years.

An article on Quora points to the fact that many top filmmakers and actors and actresses have migrated to television with the likes of Kevin Bacon, Halle Berry and Michael Sheen taking leading roles in TV series in recent years.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.