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Netflix, Streaming and Television Online: A Guide for Seniors

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Netflix, Streaming and Television Online: A Guide for Seniors

Cutting the cord. Binge watching. Streaming. Netflix and chill.

These are some common television-related phrases you might have heard, especially from your adult children or grandchildren. Around 62 percent of adults in the U.S. subscribed to a streaming service as of 2019, and it's a growing trend that many predict might overtake traditional options such as cable in coming years.

If you're not caught up on the latest television-watching trends, talk about Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime might sound like gibberish. But for seniors in assisted living communities, streaming services have a lot to offer. Learn more about these options in this guide to streaming television that we've put together.

What Is Television Streaming?

Television streaming just means watching TV over the internet instead of via a TV antenna signal or cable. If you've ever watched YouTube, you've streamed video content. Streaming services simply make it possible to stream movies and a lot of the same programming that you would watch on cable networks.

How Do You Stream Television?

You need a few basics to stream television:

  • A reliable, fast internet connection. Dial up, which was the first type of common home internet connection, certainly doesn't cut it. You typically need a high-speed connection that offers 3.5 to 5 Mbps or more. That sounds technical, but when you set up internet service, you can just let the provider know you want speeds fast enough to support video streaming.
  • A screen to watch content on. This might be a television that can connect to a streaming device, a laptop computer or a tablet or smartphone. Seniors may not want to watch a lot of content on smaller screens such as smartphones, though, as that can cause eye strain.
  • A streaming service. This is the provider of the content. If you have a subscription to the service, you can typically watch all of its free content at no charge. You can also rent or purchase specific content from some services without a regular subscription. Find out about some popular streaming services below.

What Are Some Paid and Free Television Streaming Services?

  • Netflix. This is one of the most talked about services. Around 150 million people use this service—about a third of internet users across the world. This is a paid service; it costs $8.99 to $15.99 per month depending on your plan. Subscribers have access to millions of shows and movies, including original content.
  • Hulu. Hulu also provides access to network television shows, movies and original content. Plans start around $5.99 a month, but you can also purchase a bundle package that includes Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN.
  • Disney+. This is Disney's streaming service. Seniors might enjoy the nostalgia of watching cartoons and movies from their own childhood or from times they spent with children and grandchildren. Disney's channel also offers access to Marvel and NatGeo content.
  • Amazon Prime. If you pay for an Amazon Prime membership to save on shipping, you can get access to a lot of free video content, including original movies and series. Amazon also provides on-demand streaming of many movies. You can buy the digital movie to watch it anytime or rent movies for just a few dollars if you plan to watch them in the next three days.
  • Free streaming services. Dozens of services provide free entertainment you can stream. Consumer Reports offers a rundown of some of the best of these, which includes Hoopla. If you have a Vigo County Public Library card, you can stream movies and other content from Hoopla for free.

Streaming Content on Your Television

Not all televisions are equipped to stream video content. You need either a smart television that has streaming capability built in or a television that accepts a connection from a streaming device.

Streaming devices come in a variety of forms. You can get DVD and BluRay players that play discs and include the technology to stream. But you can also buy small devices that plug easily into your TV ports and let you browse streaming services in an intuitive environment.

Roku makes streaming devices that are popular for this purpose. The cost of these players starts at around $30, and they typically let you access a wide variety of free and paid streaming channels. Most Roku devices let you access Disney+, Hulu, Amazon and Netflix content, though you have to pay separately for each subscription.

Roku also offers free streaming options including Pluto TV, which lets you watch news, sports and some entertainment. Roku has its own free channel with older television and movies, including sweet Hallmark romance, numerous classics and family-friendly programming seniors can enjoy with visiting grandchildren.

Is streaming right for you? That's a choice you have to make for yourself. Bethesda Gardens in Terre Haute, IN, offers cable TV for residents, so you don't have to be a cord cutter to save money on entertainment. But streaming might let you access the kind of content you're most interested in anytime you're ready to watch.

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