Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend some easy-to-use television remote controls for seniors? I got my 74-year-old mother a new HDTV for her birthday, but the remote control is very confusing for her to operate. - Shopping Son
Dear Shopping: It seems like most television remote controls today come with dozens of unnecessary buttons that make them very confusing to operate.
Add in the fact many people use two or three remotes to operate their home entertainment equipment (TV, cable box, VCR and DVD player, etc.) it compounds the problem even further.
Fortunately, there are several universal TV remotes available today specifically designed for seniors and the technically challenged.
These remote controls have bigger buttons and fewer options that make them much easier to see, program and operate.
Two popular senior-friendly products to consider are the Flipper Remote and the Super Remote SR3.
The Flipper works all major TVs including cable, satellite and digital TV receiver boxes with only one remote. Available for $25 at flipperremote.com, it offers a tapered design that makes it easy to hold, and for simplicity it has only six large color-coded buttons that are exposed (On/Off, Channel Up and Down, Volume Up and Down, and Mute.)
All others buttons are accessed by sliding the top panel down, so they won't get in the way during day-to-day TV watching.
Flipper also has an optional feature that lets you program up to 30 of your mom's favorite channels for easy access.
The Super Remote SR3 from Universal Remote Control, Inc. (sold through amazon.com for about $13) is a slightly more sophisticated user-friendly remote that can control three devices - TVs, cable or satellite boxes, and DVD players.
It offers a light-weight ergonomic design, large easy-to-see numeric buttons each in the shape of the number it represents, and a centrally located "My Button" that gives your mom the ability turn on the TV and set the tuner to her favorite channel with a single button press.
It also provides four "Favorite" buttons for one-touch access to her favorite channels, and an "All Off" button that lets her shut down the entire home entertainment system with a single button press.
There are also a number of over-sized TV remotes ideal for seniors with vision problems. The "Tek Partner," "Big Button" and "Tek Pal" remotes all made by the Hy-Tek Manufacturing Company (bigbuttonremotes.com, 630-466-7664) in Sugar Grove, Ill., are three solid options to consider.
If you're interested in an extra large remote control, the $40 Tek Partner - which is 5 1/2 inches wide and 8 1/2 inches long - is their biggest. It offers huge brightly lit buttons with big readable characters, and a narrowed center (3 1/2 inches), which makes it easy to handle for a big remote. It also contains only the essential functions making it easy to use and program, and it operates any combination of TVs, VCRs, DVD players, cable boxes and satellite dishes.
If you're looking for something a little smaller (2 1/2 inches by 9 1/2 inches), there's the $25, rectangular-shaped Big Button remote that offers the same large and illuminating buttons as the Tek Partner and the exact same features.
Or, if you only want a basic remote for the TV, there's the Tek Pal that comes with just six large buttons (On/Off, Mute, Channel Up and Down, and Volume Up and Down buttons) that light up when pushed.
Available for $19, the Pal will only work with televisions that have been cable-wired directly into the TV.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC "Today" show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org