Remote Controls for the Elderly


Aging in place, according to the Centers for Disease Control, means that an elderly person remains in his or her  home, even as the person’s health care needs change. Aging in place is what a large number of seniors prefer today. In order for family members to remain comfortable with the thought of their loved ones living on their own, however, certain accessibility measures need to be put in place. Any measures taken to simplify life for elderly loved ones can help them to age in place successfully. One of the most common ways to do this is with simplified remote controls.

Aim: Decrease Frustration


Technology today can be overwhelming for seniors, especially when they are faced with a large number of buttons , symbols, and features on remotes that they either cannot read or cannot comprehend. The University of Buffalo Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Aging conducted a study where elderly study participants were provided with four different types of remotes that included:


  • A prototype designed by RERC with 15 buttons that were large and easy to see
  • A prototype designed by RERC with 6 buttons that were just as large and easy to see
  • A commercially available remote with small buttons and small print
  • A commercially available remote with larger buttons, but not as large as the prototype remotes


In the study, 30 elderly people were provided with each of the four remotes in random order and then asked their feelings and thoughts about their operation. Most of the subjects preferred to use the 15 button remote designed by RERC and indeed, they made fewer mistakes using that prototype. The seniors stated that, in a choice between a remote with larger buttons and fewer features and a remote with smaller buttons and more features, they would prefer a remote with larger buttons and fewer features.


Some elderly persons do not enjoy their electronics as much as they could because they are worried they will press a wrong button and lose their television access completely. Remotes with larger buttons and fewer features may help them feel confident that they can navigate correctly and without the frustration of somehow losing the signal and being deprived of television viewing.


Aim: Increase Ease of Use


Some elderly people, especially those suffering from dementia, not only get frustrated but confused when faced with multiple remotes or multiple features on a single remote. When they try to navigate to their favorite shows or channels, they can easily get confused and find themselves giving up. With Alzheimer’s Association figures saying that one in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is vitally important that caregivers provide their aging seniors with remotes that are easy to use, including those that allow a caregiver to program the elderly person’s favorite channels directly into the remote. Remotes such as the Flipper allow a caregiver to pre-program 30 channels into someone’s remote.


Aim: Decrease Physical Issues


Physical capabilities commonly decrease as people age, which can make even the simplest tasks seem impossible. For seniors who have difficulty holding items, a large, bulky remote can be nearly impossible to handle. The Flipper and Super Remote SR3 are two examples of remotes that are ergonomically designed to help seniors easily hold the remote and operate it. With a lightweight design and buttons that are easy to reach even for those seniors suffering from conditions such as arthritis, it is more likely that using such remotes means seniors will be able to enjoy their favorite television shows in the comfort of their own homes.


Using Universal Remotes


If your loved one still wants to use electronic devices in addition to the standard television, a universal remote meant to take the place of several remotes can be a great convenience. The Tek Partner Large Button Remote provides the elderly with everything they could need:


  • The replacement of up to four remotes for DVD players, televisions, and cable boxes
  • Ergonomic design for easy grasping
  • Large buttons
  • Large wording for easy reading
  • Retention of code information even after changing the battery so there is no need for reprogramming


Universal remotes are often good choices for the elderly who want the diversity that cable providers can give them and who want to be able to watch movies on DVDs.


Finding the simplified remote that works well for an elderly person can greatly enhance his or her comfort while aging in place. A study conducted by the National Advisory Council on Aging discovered that not all seniors are against learning new technology, but that today’s businesses do not do a very good job of bringing things back to the basics for seniors who might be willing to learn more about them. Caregivers and relatives do well to talk to senior loved ones about preferences–whether an elderly loved one prefers a simplified remote or education on how to use the latest technology.





Alzheimer’s Association. (2016). Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Available at Accessed on June 24, 2016.


Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Healthy Places Terminology. Available at Accessed on June 24, 2016.