Whether it’s tuning in for a few hours of daytime viewing or binging the latest drama, television is one of the UK’s most popular pastimes. The lockdowns of the previous years have emphasised this, with TV providing entertainment and shared touchpoints for conversation.
Finding a TV show or character that you connect with can be validating and comforting. It’s therefore important that everyone sees themselves represented in the media, but depictions of elderly people can often be unflattering or patronising.
For those of you currently searching for a new series to dive into, Lottie has investigated those already popular with older viewers and created a list of recommendations based on this.
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Research from YouGov has revealed the programmes most popular amongst people born between 1946 and 1964. From heritage entertainment, such as Antiques Roadshow, to contemporary thrillers like Killing Eve, elderly people appreciate entertainment from across the spectrum.
According to YouGov, the 20 most popular contemporary shows amongst older people are:
If you’ve not yet watched any of these TV series, you should consider giving them a try.
Older people are a large and diverse part of the UK’s population, and television should reflect this. Programming often fails to provide this visibility, but there are shows with well-developed portrayals of elderly people.
This Netflix original stars comedy veteran Lily Tomlin and Oscar winner Jane Fonda, playing a pair of retirees who find themselves suddenly single.
It’s a light and entertaining watch that presents a positive image of old age, with the characters all embracing the joy of retirement. From romance to medical challenges, the programme humorously explores the highs and lows of aging.
The stellar cast and writing mean that Grace and Frankie is always entertaining and occasionally even moving. There are seven series already on Netflix, so get watching!
With the passing of Betty White at the start of 2022, the Golden Girls have sadly all now departed. However, the show lives on as a comedy classic that pioneered the representation of elderly people on TV.
The programme focuses on a group of female friends, sharing a home in Miami, Florida.
Acerbic writing and charismatic performances made The Golden Girls an instant hit when it first aired in the 1980s. It can now be found streaming on Disney+ and remains as funny as ever.
Last Tango in Halifax is a long-running comedy-drama, with a central story about a pair of widowed retirees, who were friends in their youth and decide to reunite.
Frequently praised for its realistic portrayal of older British people, the programme displays a funny but recognisable view of later life in the UK.
Series one to five are currently available on BBC iPlayer, so there’s plenty to get stuck into.
Period programmes can help viewers to learn more about or better remember the past. This means they can be especially enjoyable for older people, who may have lived through the events depicted.
Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife follows the stories of midwives living in London in the 1950s and 60s. The drama has been commended for tackling difficult topics, such as inequality and social tensions, with warmth and sensitivity.
Call the Midwife began its 11th series in January 2022, with all previous episodes also available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
Rumoured to be one of the most expensive TV series ever made, The Crown is a stylised portrayal of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The period drama takes an empathetic approach, bringing emotional weight to historic events.
With lavish production values and award-winning actors, such as Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter, the programme is well-regarded and a highly entertaining watch.
All episodes of The Crown can be streamed on Netflix.
No watch is more comforting than a familiar favourite. For older people, this may be a programme you remember fondly from the past.
Considered one of the greatest British sitcoms ever created, Porridge was originally broadcast in 1974. Three series of the original programme were created, and its 2016 reboot ranks first on YouGov’s most popular shows amongst older viewers.
The story follows a pair of prison inmates and their interactions with their cell guards. Although the premise sounds dark, the writing is light and filled with zany British humour.
Porridge originally ran for three years, and all episodes can currently be streamed on BBC iPlayer.
Often ranked as the best British sitcom ever created, Fawlty Towers centres on a highly strung hotelier, Basil Fawlty, and the eccentric guests that come to stay.
Written and created by comedy legend John Cleese, the show remains amusing to modern viewers, despite being originally broadcast almost 50 years ago. The laughs are non-stop and the writing continues to set the bar for British comedy.
Both series of Fawlty Towers are available via BBC iPlayer.
33 episodes of this classic crime drama were created, airing between 1987 and 2000. It continues to be enormously popular, with intriguing stories and a fantastic lead performance from John Thaw in the titular role.
Lewis, Morse’s successor series, features on YouGov’s list of the most popular watches amongst older people. However, for those of you desiring a more nostalgic watch, Inspector Morse is currently all available to stream via ITV Hub.
Shows that help viewers to learn about nature are always popular. Blue Planet II and Countryfile appeared in YouGov’s list of the series most liked by older people, so here Lottie provides suggestions for further watching.
One of Britain's most prolific broadcasters, David Attenborough has educated the nation about the natural world. He continues to create ambitious programmes for both the BBC and Netflix.
On BBC iPlayer, you can find a wide range of Attenborough series. From classics, such as Planet Earth or Life on Earth, to newer shows like Life in Colour, there are hours of his nature documentaries and huge amounts to learn!
Further, Attenborough has been working recently with Netflix, particularly focusing on raising awareness around the effects of climate change. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet and Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet can both be streamed on the platform.
If you’d like to learn a little more about the outdoors of the UK, this show exploring the top walks in the country is for you.
Hosted by Julia Bradbury and Ore Oduba, this one-off special reveals the nation’s favourite walks, as voted for by the public. There’s beautiful scenery and the programme may provide inspiration for people searching for a new part of Britain to explore.
Britain’s Favourite Walks can be streamed on ITV Hub.
So, there we have Lottie’s list of the best watches for elderly people. Kick back and relax with some of these great watches!