Save Money, Watch Smarter: Cable-Cutting Basics for Seniors

After years of careful consideration (and the inevitable but slow upward creep of monthly bills for 100+ channels he rarely watched), on a clear recent Saturday morning, my significant other and I made the 15-mile journey to the nearest cable storefront to return his equipment.

He’d finally done it. He’d cut the cord. It was a momentous occasion.

If the demographics in the store that morning were a representative sample of business in industry, we extend condolences to cable providers. Every other person (not exaggerating) was doing the same thing, and there wasn’t a soul under 50 in the place.

The silver tsunami of cable-cutting seems to have begun.

One man, behind us in line, leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “How are you guys gonna get TV from now on?” We let him in on the secret.

The cable-cutting tool kit

No less an authority than Consumer Reports validated our experience when it published a comprehensive guide to services that let you cut the cable in July 2019. With an internet connection, a way to connect your television to a streaming service, there are endless ways to get only what you want without all that stuff you don’t.

And yes, the major stumbling block to widespread adoption of streaming rather than cable is finally gone: You can now get live “cable” news and sports without cable on services like Hulu with LiveTV or SlingTV. (That’s what finally got my significant other over the hump.)

The process itself is well documented across the internet. But the truly exciting thing about cutting cable is the possibilities it opens up.

What will I do with all this extra time and money?

While the initial motivation to cut cable is usually monetary, the benefits may be more than financial. It may be possible to use cord-cutting into a step that supports healthier aging.

First, run the numbers. I went cable-free in 2014. That took my monthly provider bill from more than $250/month to $55/month, for just internet. I then added Netflix and a Hulu subscription (upgraded to the fancy premium version, without commercials) at $10 apiece (at the time—it’s since gone up to $15 for Netflix). The net annual savings: more than $2,100 per year.

It’s been five years now, so it adds up. By now I could have purchased a respectable used car with those savings; I’ve been socking it away for the inevitable day a replacement is needed. Similarly, seniors who are looking for ways to add resources to the budget for other needs, such as a personal emergency response system or cell phone, might examine this option as a way to fund them.

Another benefit of cutting cable: It forces intentional television watching behavior, which is a significant benefit for the aging brain. Research published in February 2019 suggests that watching more than 3.5 hours of television per day in middle-aged people might be associated with a decline in verbal memory—a measurable decrease in brain performance. Even worse, that performance decline appears to steadily worsen as more hours of TV are watched.

Streaming (rather than leaving a TV on all the time in the background) is a more selective process than cable-watching. You have to stop and think, “Do I really want to watch this?” Netflix is even notorious for asking, “Are you still watching?” These prompts offer opportunities to affirmatively select information and stimulation, rather than becoming a passive recipient of sensory input. In fact, researchers know that TV can cause stress—which is another potential source of damage to neurons in the aging brain.

The television and brain aging study prompted Rebecca Edelmeyer, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, to suggest replacing TV with other activities, in fact. “You’re spending more time not engaging with your family, your friends and having social conversations, because they’re specifically reporting a decrease in verbal recall…We know engagement with others in conversation is something that supports and protects verbal recall,” she said.

Have you cut cable? Are you thinking about it?

What could you do with a few extra hours per day of intentional time if you turned off the television? Would you read? Listen to audiobooks? Draw? Do puzzles? Text or talk with your family who live far away? Take a class? Get together with friends for game night more often?

Organize the family photo albums and annotate them with notes about who’s who and what they were doing, so future generations don’t lose their history?

How much could you save on cable by switching to streaming?
Have you considered it?
Is it time?

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42 thoughts on “Save Money, Watch Smarter: Cable-Cutting Basics for Seniors

  1. ALETA EVANS
    September 2, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    How do you get preferred football games
    Can you record and play later
    Can you get TMC movies and play later

    1. Kathy Test
      October 4, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Test reply to Aleta.

    2. Anonymous
      October 5, 2019 at 12:51 am

      Screw football

    3. Bobby Howard
      October 16, 2019 at 9:52 pm

      I am a big sports fan. What can I get and from whom.

      1. Anonymous
        October 21, 2019 at 7:10 pm

        Get an over the air antenna from Walmart or similar store. We get about 30 different channels including major networks. ..some we have no interest in. We included Roku and Xbox. We watch all of our favorite teams on local networks and other games on espn on Xbox live. We pay for WiFi and that’s all after buying the antenna (prices vary…$20 and up) If you live in town, my husband says you don’t need as much antenna.

  2. Kathy Teti
    September 4, 2019 at 9:10 am

    We are a older couple and do not know all this technology.so we need a lot of help .were does one go for answers.Kathyteti

  3. Jane Russell
    September 4, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I don’t have e-mail

  4. Michael kinsey
    September 8, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Can’t wait!!

  5. Shirley Chick
    September 8, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    My question is the same as kathyteti. SHIRLEY C

  6. Nell Bynum
    September 8, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I don’t have cable any longer, therefore I don’t have WiFi. If I buy what you are suggesting, will I have access to WiFi? I use an iPhone and iPad. Many sites I try to access want the name of my WiFi network. I’m 78 years old and not very tech savvy.

    1. Shirley Freis
      October 22, 2019 at 12:52 am

      Need to know what to do, rarely watch TV use my I pad ATT is my wi Fi and phone is Verizon… pay Att which is $90.00 a month and cable is $26.00, Verizon is paid by son, what can I cut the cord on.
      Foolish lady

  7. Deborah
    September 9, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    What if you only have Dish available in your area?

  8. Anonymous
    September 13, 2019 at 8:20 am

    How about getting out of the house?

  9. Anonymous
    September 14, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    I couldn’t open any of the replies so not very helpful

  10. Ann snow
    September 17, 2019 at 1:27 am

    Can you get the local TV news stations

  11. Anonymous
    September 17, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Replies won’t open. Not helpful

  12. Andy Rothauser
    September 18, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Roku is the answer. You can buy a simple Roku receiver for $35 from Amazon (includes remote control) and it allows you to view almost all of the streaming services by choosing one from a menu when you turn it on. It even turns on your TV screen automatically. Many of the shows, news programs, etc. are free including PBS, and others. But you can also subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Sling Amazon Prime, Britbox, Acorn (British TV), all the old Westerns, etc. etc. for a monthly or yearly fee or pay per view. Even Great Courses lectures are now available. The Roku unit also has controls for stopping, reversing, fast-forward, volume, and visually reproduced dialog at bottom of screen for hard-of-hearing or viewing strange British dialects.

    The main drawback is that you have to make your own decisions about programming and scheduling instead of passively having this done for you by the cable channel programmers so you will have to spend some time becoming familiar with the techniques involved and setting up repeat choices. Also you can start a show at any time and if you stop it when the phone or doorbell rings you can start up again later where you left off without missing anything. There are no time constraints.

    Another plus is that all past episodes of a particular show are usually available including TV series, movies, documentaries, etc.

    Both Amazon and Apple now have competing devices, but Roku leads the pack and many of the new TV sets now come with Roku built-in (be sure to ask).

    By the way Roku stock has been climbing the charts rapidly and shows no sign of stopping.

    1. Anne
      October 5, 2019 at 7:10 am

      Your main drawback was my primary plus regarding programing. I had Direct TV for several years and as soon as WiFi and Roku entered the picture I canceled cable. Confess to having Jeopardy withdrawal for a few weeks, but I was able to subscribe to the great Criterion Channel, BritBox, Acorn, Netflix, PBS Passport, and Amazon Prime. Netflix and Amazon Prime also offer a lot of BBC/PBS Masterpiece, Ken Burns, and science and nature programs. In short, it is programming that suits my taste and interests rather than reality shows, sports, and shopping for junk.

    2. Bob Jones
      October 17, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      Very well said about the roku device that allows streaming from the internet. In addition to roku consider installing an over-the-air antenna to get free additional channels, especially local news channels. These antennas are readily available at Walmart and Best Buy.

  13. Sandra Clancy
    September 19, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I live in a small town with poor internet speed so streaming anything is sloooooooow.

  14. Linda
    September 19, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Wish we knew all the answers to the above questions plus a few more like can we get our local news- all the major networks – and college football BTN ?

  15. Diana
    September 19, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Can’t open any replies. Not very helpful. Where can you get more information.

  16. Sylvia
    September 20, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Don’t you need Internet?

  17. Karen
    September 22, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    You will need an internet modem from you cable provider(comcast, spectrum, time warner,etc..) The get an Amazon fire stick and plug it into the back of your tv and then stream it. YouTube has dozens of videos on cutting the cord of cable tv.

  18. Ray Barton
    September 22, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    It’s not necessary to get your WiFi from the same provider as TV. Probably it’s better not to do so. They know why you are not doing it. You have to find a Direct TV company store to get the phone number to actually talk to them. Call and cancel your Direct TV. Don’t back down until you get what you want. This is just a temporary fix.

  19. Karin Smith
    September 25, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    I’m almost 80 years old and am a Widow, have no children that could help me. So how do I get a step by step info to cut the cable and still have TV ? I’m paying around $ 235.00 and this is the only entertainment I have.

    1. Bob Raposo
      October 15, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Karen, Where do you live?.. I can help you if you’re close by.Contact me at my e-mail address and we can talk.

    2. Greggie
      October 21, 2019 at 3:27 am

      Magic man/is coming to save your day come on down ,leave the light on .

    3. Sue Trinrud
      October 22, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      Contact your local senior center to find people who have been vetted. Don’t just let anyone in!

  20. Afinaqu@gmail.com
    September 27, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    We like vintage, movies and tv shows. We have Comcast setup and pay them to get these items. The quality of these shows are non-quality and very limited, yet we pay a lot of money just to get bottom of the barrel selections.

  21. Arlin Broyles
    September 28, 2019 at 1:15 am

    I get more local news,old movies,newer movies,cartoons and a better picture because the signal is not compressed like it was on the satellite dish. I get this on am over the air antenna and its absolutely FREE !!!

  22. Floyd Starvuck
    September 29, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Why won`t the reply open up? My wife says it is all a bunch of crap.

    1. Sandy
      October 20, 2019 at 9:47 pm

      Floyd Starvuck
      September 29, 2019 at 11:34 am
      Why won`t the reply open up? My wife says it is all a bunch of crap.

      The reply doesn’t open if no one has replied.

  23. Dalia Olivas
    October 1, 2019 at 4:21 am

    I cut out my cable, the price kept going up but the thing that really got to me was paying thru the teeth for the 5-10-and 18 commercials in between movies, who wants to pay to watch mostly commercials, I don’t and won’t !!!

  24. Neil Harvieux
    October 2, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    I have 2 residents one seasonal what would I need to get Hulu at both places fire sticks at each place and what would my monthly charges be for that??

  25. Arlene Brooks
    October 3, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    I purchased an antenna and get all the local stations and about 34 channels for my area. There is a web sight you can enter your address and it will tell you how many stations you would get in your area and where to point your antenna and I just pay for Hulu and Netflix or you can look into Vue or some of the other ones like Sling.

  26. Herman AND LINDA Stavis
    October 3, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    the above all sounds great. being I”M 80 YRS. OLD AND WOULD NEED HELP SETTING UP ,IS THERE A COMPANY THAT WOULD COME TO MY HOUSE AND HELP EXPLAIN AND DO THE ABOVE SERVICES TO ELIMINATE MY CABLE COMPANY AND ASSURE ME I’LL GET THE PROGRAMS I WANT? (WI FI, INTERNET,PHONE, AND SETTING UP STREAMING ON MY T.V.) PLEASE ADVISE. THANKS, HERMAN STAVIS

    1. John
      October 19, 2019 at 2:00 am

      Hi Herman, to answer your question, the ambiguous answer is “it depends”: On how far you are from a TV source if you want off the air. If close enough an indoor antenna could be adequate. If you purchase high speed internet now and have a wifi router set up, that wouldn’t change. If you want to stream off the internet as well, the set up is not too difficult, if wifi is set up in your home. As I stated in my comment, streaming subscriptions can add up. I’d suggest you do the math before cutting the cord.

    2. Penny
      October 20, 2019 at 6:16 pm

      Ask a young neighbor or a church member to help you if you have no kids or grandkids close.

  27. MARY Strickland
    October 4, 2019 at 2:58 am

    I cut cable a year ago and have not missed it a bit! I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime which I usually watch on weekends – through an Amazon Firestick or just on my iPad. My local NBC affiliate live-streams its news broadcasts, so local news is no issue…..and so much national and global news is all over the internet. I also have rediscovered my love of reading and listening to music. Life is good, quieter and definitely more peaceful!

  28. Tom M
    October 18, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    If you want ESPN, Hallmark, lifetime , history channel , Food network, Home Improvement, and such as these , you need to have cable or one of the satellite companies . Even if you get one of the streaming services, you will have to pay extra for those. Find out the channels that you watch regularly. Most people have 3-7 channels that they watch regularly, however every body is different and watches different channels.

  29. John
    October 19, 2019 at 1:52 am

    I cut the cord a while back. The big thing for us was a need for high speed internet. We both use the “web” a lot. But most of our programming comes from local channels off the air. Antennas are fairly cheap, and even in a fringe area like ours we get over 30 channels from 3 directions. (using a rotor). Since we have internet, we did buy a Roku, even though our TV was a “smart” tv, we found that the manufacturer (and probably others) didn’t keep the software in the TV up to date, and some streaming was unreliable. The Roku remedied that. All that being said, there still isn’t much “free” out there, and streaming subscriptions add up. Add to that the fact that there are so many reruns on, even on PBS, that if you subscribe to a particular source, you can expect that too. If we didn’t use internet so much for other things I wouldn’t consider the cost of high speed access worth it just for TV streaming. Just my humble opinion.

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