It was the Spring of 2020 when my father and mother (ages 68 and 66) spent their days in strict lockdown. Like millions of other people, they could only leave the house to shop for groceries. Their routine was reduced to staying healthy and FaceTime calls with their offspring. I wanted to help them fill their new excess time spent at home, with something entertaining. But what? I decided to send them a digital Netflix Gift Card by email. In doing so, I discovered the perfect gift for elderly parents as a serendipitous side effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
From Distance and Distrust to Binge-Watching Experts
“A what?”, my parents asked when I presented them with the digital gift card. Admittedly, it didn’t end there, and I needed to set up their new account and redeem the gift card for them. But after their first episode of The Crown, they were hooked. And now, more than a year later and with several series in their queue, they’re still thankful for the convenience of streaming on-demand in their lives.
Funny right? How this gesture that only took me a couple of clicks improved the lives of two senior adults. After all, their relationship with Netflix was one of distance and distrust. Like many their mature age, they were hesitant of the digital era. Ironically, the generations that have the most time to watch movies and series have lagged behind in the revolution of SVOD (streaming-video-on-demand). Maybe it is just a matter of properly introducing them to the platforms. So let's break down the unexpected advantages of introducing your elderly loved ones to the joys of streaming on demand.
The Advantages of Getting Prepaid Netflix Gift Subscriptions for Seniors
1. They Feel Like They Belong Again
"I heard about Netflix everywhere and, once again, I felt like I was left out in the cold on internet stuff. But not anymore. Now I use Netflix too and it's pretty easy." Of all the reasons my 66-year-old mother enjoyed her Netflix Gift Card, this is the one that she mentions the most.
And it seems that she is not alone:
According to Nielsen data from 2019, only 7% of SVOD users in the US were older than 65, while the percentage went up to 31% in regards to conventional TV. It was the 50-64 -year-old Americans that made up 14% of total SVOD users, but 30% of the traditional TV audience. The gap is huge and surely gets bigger in other countries. A survey by Amepre Analysis concluded that only a 10% of Brits in the 55-64 age group had watched Netflix in the UK in a month’s time. This, compared to 53% that had watched the BBC. If that’s the 55-64-year-olds, how skinny are the stats for one age group up?
The reasons may range from unawareness to fear of paying online, or lack of a streaming device. In any case, the result is an aging population that is increasingly left out of the conversation. They don't understand how the rest of us watch TV without televisions, don't know the current celebrities, and don't follow the chatter at family events with younger members. So, isn’t it our duty to guide them?
2. They Value the Luxury of On-Demand Entertainment
Think about it: Your older parents or grandparents have never enjoyed streaming video on demand before. What for you may be routine, for them is a luxury. Choosing exactly what to watch and when to watch it… is a new concept for them.
For the older generations, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video are indeed similar to the cinema, but at home, which is convenient in case of health or mobility restrictions. Not to mention in case of a pandemic lockdown! To cheat the confinement routine during COVID-19, few things worked better for all of us than preparing popcorn, turning off the lights and hitting play on the preferred streaming service.
3. They Don't Need to Share Their Bank Details Online
Coming back to the experience with my own parents, both of them readily admit that they would not have subscribed to Netflix on their own. No way. The reasons? Unfamiliarity, lack of technical knowledge, and of course, reluctance to pay online.
I don't like sharing my credit card data on the Internet, let alone subscribing to things.
That's where the prepaid credit comes in handy. You buy a temporary subscription in advance, pay online as you like, and give it as a gift card to the lucky seniors who now don't have to pay online themselves. It's a simple and secure payment method, and, even better, you can choose the dollar amount of how much to spend upfront. And if they run out of credit? You get them a new gift card. Since a subscription is temporary, it gives them peace of mind. If they no longer want to keep up with it, they don't have to unsubscribe or depend on anyone to do it for them.
4. They Can Watch The Queen (and So Much More)
The truth is, most of Netflix's catalog is aimed at a young or relatively young audience. “Analysts at Morgan Stanley say that one demographic will be a key to Netflix’s success in the US moving forward: older people. Particularly those over 65”, according to Insider. Otherwise, where will the new subscribers come from?
Curiously enough, in recent years the company has ventured into series with older protagonists, from Grace and Frankie (starring Jane Fonda) to The Kominsky Method (Michael Douglas). But the crown jewel, no pun intended, is The Crown, which engages all ages with melodrama, history and a superb multigenerational cast.
What are other good shows and movies for seniors on Netflix?
The period drama, Call the Midwife is loved by viewers of all ages, but especially the elderly. The Queen's Gambit and Unorthodox are other series with success among higher age groups. As for movies? Their cup of tea may be awarded movies from the '90s, like As Good As It Gets, or new Netflix productions, like Scorsese’s The Irishman. Interestingly enough, older users are more likely to watch Netflix originals than younger viewers, who mainly consume -without even knowing it- licensed productions.
One great asset of Netflix for the elderly is its wide range of documentaries. Our Planet, created by the team behind BBC’s legendary Planet Earth, is a top choice. Other suitable titles range from Greatest Events Of WWII In Colour to Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming.
5. They Engage in New Conversations (Also with You)
How can one comment on the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle issue without having watched The Queen? Surely it helps to find parallels with past episodes of the British royal family! This silly example illustrates the bigger picture that watching series can give you for day-to-day conversations. Just as those children who don't have a television get lost in the stories of their classmates, the same thing happens to adults who don't watch the latest series.
Of course, there are many more topics than the newest Netflix original, one can discuss, but when you no longer work, travel or go out much, you lose your connection with others, especially with younger people. Think about it, wouldn't you rather talk about TV shows with your parents than politics or -even worse- your relationship situation?
6. They Get to Practice Languages
Millions of people have grown up without hearing a language other than their own on TV and in the movies. People in developed, densely populated countries have always seen foreign productions in dubbed versions. Can you imagine Meryl Streep speaking German? That's the only way some know her! Luckily, the internet changes this, exposing new generations to original versions of entertainment. And this is one of the main reasons why young people in many countries speak better English than their parents - because now they listen to it!
It turns out that many older people study languages too. My father is one of them, and now he can watch his movies directly in English whenever he feels like it, without having to look for a remote cinema in the original version that plays the film he wants. In the opposite direction, his native language, Spanish, has gained learners abroad thanks to Netflix series like Money Heist, productions whose impact was exclusively local until recently.
Why Not Share your Netflix Subscription with Them?
You can simply share your existing account with your older parents or grandparents, of course. You can all easily share an account and watch on 2-4 screens or devices simultaneously, depending on your plan. But do warn them not to share the login with anyone else. Otherwise -especially in large families- you run the risk of having a bad time like this funny Medium contributor.
If the intent is sharing expenses as well, alternating in buying a gift card turns out really handy and avoids hassle. Designating the gift card amount and who is responsible for purchasing next is a great way to keep the entertainment going. One other option is to trade subscriptions to different streaming video services. One household pays for Netflix, the other one for Hulu or HBO Max, for example.
How to Set Up Netflix for Seniors
Explaining technology can be difficult, especially if it is a new concept to whoever you are describing it to. These tips should help make it a little easier. For example, a Netflix Gift Card is useless for people who don't have the internet. This is the minimum requirement: an internet connection with at least 5.0 MBPs speed, the minimum to watch HD. But what comes next?
Step 1: Arrange a Suitable Device (If Necessary)
If your parents or grandparents already have a smart TV, giving them this gift is a piece of cake. Other devices such as tablets or computers are suitable too, but more often than not, they want to watch TV on a big screen and comfortably sit in their living room. So what to do if they do not have a smart TV?
If they have cable, first check if the cable box already includes the Netflix app; sometimes they do. If not, you will need to buy them a TV with internet or a Roku player, which everyone says is the easiest way to access streaming services. Roku is a small device that you connect to your television to watch shows through apps, like Netflix and those of other streaming services. It comes with a super-simple remote with shortcuts to the different platforms. All you need is a television with an available HDMI port.
Step 2: Create a New Netflix Account and Redeem the Gift Card Balance
First, help your seniors set up a Netflix password. Then, help them choose the plan that's right for them. What resolution do they wish for? How many screens will they watch at once? The Basic or Standard plans are probably enough for them to give Netflix a try - that way, the gift card credit will also last longer. When asked to “set up your payment”, select “Gift Code” and introduce your digital Netflix Gift Card’s code. Your parents, grandparents or other elderly adults will be reassured to see that no credit card is needed.
Step 3: Show Them Around and Start Streaming!
Show them around the app so they get familiar and recommend them a show to start with. Explain how to play it, how to select the desired episode, the language, the subtitles and how to resume the same show after turning their television off. Teach them how to search for other series, movies or documentaries with the search tool. Explain the “recommended” sections, the queue. Make sure to do it all with patience and understanding, without assuming that everything is obvious - because for them, it is entirely new.
When they're ready, just let them enjoy themselves! Remind them that Netflix will notify them when their gift card credit is about to run out, so help them buy a new card in time - or treat them to some more credit! In no time you'll have a natural streamer on your hands who will be asking if YOU have checked out the latest show.