Abstract: Television viewing is an important leisure activity for older adults. The aim of the current study is to provide insight into the meanings of television in older adults’ lives, by analysing change and continuity in their television viewing. A qualitative study was conducted that included in-depth interviews on television viewing among a diverse sample of Dutch people aged 65 years and older (N=86). The interview study shows that television has a variety of meanings for older adults. The meanings of television viewing changed in response to changes in everyday life, but this did not happen unidirectionally. Retirement, physical changes and changes in household composition led to increases as well as decreases in television viewing. Watching more television was experienced in both positive and negative ways. After a loss in the interpersonal sphere, television viewing can play a valuable role in adaptation processes, but it was also experienced as an activity that needs to be avoided. With regard to television content we found that some programmes gained importance when people age, whereas other programmes became less important or attractive. These changes in television viewing occurred for only part of the sample and some interviewees experienced continuity in the status of viewing and in their content preferences. The results are discussed in the context of recent literature on leisure constraints, leisure as coping, and adaptation strategies.
Keywords: media use, television viewing, qualitative research, interview study, older adults, ageing