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Old 10-07-2019, 03:21 PM
Morgyn is offline
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Recommendation needed: 3 device universal remote for seniors


My dad is 92 with Parkinsons. He has a bad habit of pushing the wrong buttons on the remote control for the TV and set top box, causing him and my mom (who has to figure out what happened and fix it, and she's not tech-savvy) no end of frustration. I want to get them a remote that will let dad turn the tv off and on, change channels through the STB, and watch recorded programs.

Yes, I've googled and searched Amazon, too. I've seen some I think might work, but none mention being able to access the DVR functions.

Anyone here already solved this problem? I could do with a fast answer, as I'd like to set it up before I leave their home at o'dark thirty on Thursday morning.
  #2  
Old 10-07-2019, 03:27 PM
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Sorry, probably should be a 2 device controller. But being able to access the DVR function on the STB is critical.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:39 PM
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How tech savvy are you? I have used a Logitech Harmony remote for a long time - the 655 is the most recent model similar to mine. It needs programming which I am assuming you can do for them, but once set up can be very intuitive. Basically you tell it what device you are using from Logitech's huge library, then fine tune it to your requirements. I haven't re-programmed mine in years but seem to recall you can "borrow" codes from one device to add to the setup for another, allowing you to mix functionality for DVR and TV as if they are one device.
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Old 10-07-2019, 06:14 PM
Morgyn is offline
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I'm moderately savvy. The problem with the Logitech remote is that there are far too many buttons and they're, as far as my dad is concerned, too small. I want something with BIG buttons and very few of them so Dad doesn't press something he shouldn't. A remote like this, but able to access the DVR functions as well as changing channels and adjusting the volume.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:22 AM
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Having elderly parents myself I can see your problem. It is a shame that older people are not well catered for in our modern environment when it should be so simple to create devices which offer just the basic functionality that work out of the box.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:10 AM
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Looks like this may be a good fit as it has record and playback buttons: https://www.amazon.com/RCA-RCR313BE-...539375&sr=8-14

If you open it (or any remote), you can cover the contacts on the mainboard with tape to prevent the button(s) from making contact. The rubber buttons on remotes are coated with an electrically conductive compound that works by making contact with the metal traces on the mainboard.
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
If you open it (or any remote), you can cover the contacts on the mainboard with tape to prevent the button(s) from making contact. The rubber buttons on remotes are coated with an electrically conductive compound that works by making contact with the metal traces on the mainboard.
Would it work to take the existing remote he's using and disabling buttons in this manner? What kind of remote does he have now? I assume it's the cable company's remote and the STB is the cable company's DVR. Get the same remote from ebay or the cable company and then disable all the unnecessary buttons.

Another way of disabling the buttons on the sacrifice remote is by using an exacto knife and cutting off the rubber buttons you don't need. That may be easier than trying to pry open the remote if it's glued together.
  #8  
Old 10-08-2019, 01:46 PM
Morgyn is offline
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Originally Posted by ticker View Post
Having elderly parents myself I can see your problem. It is a shame that older people are not well catered for in our modern environment when it should be so simple to create devices which offer just the basic functionality that work out of the box.
Obviously, we gave determined a niche market that could use a Kickstarter. Hmm. Maybe I should check Kickstarter. We can't be the only people needing this sort of thing.
  #9  
Old 10-08-2019, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by filmore View Post
Would it work to take the existing remote he's using and disabling buttons in this manner? What kind of remote does he have now? I assume it's the cable company's remote and the STB is the cable company's DVR. Get the same remote from ebay or the cable company and then disable all the unnecessary buttons.

Another way of disabling the buttons on the sacrifice remote is by using an exacto knife and cutting off the rubber buttons you don't need. That may be easier than trying to pry open the remote if it's glued together.
Or glue the unneeded buttons in place with a bit of superglue.

Here's a video showing the inside of a remote to get an idea of how they work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-jic76hVPs

Last edited by lingyi; 10-08-2019 at 02:29 PM.
  #10  
Old 10-08-2019, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filmore View Post
Would it work to take the existing remote he's using and disabling buttons in this manner? What kind of remote does he have now? I assume it's the cable company's remote and the STB is the cable company's DVR. Get the same remote from ebay or the cable company and then disable all the unnecessary buttons.

Another way of disabling the buttons on the sacrifice remote is by using an exacto knife and cutting off the rubber buttons you don't need. That may be easier than trying to pry open the remote if it's glued together.
Or you could do what a friend of mine did years ago when his mother was visiting. He made a cardboard sleeve that fit over the remote(s) with cutouts to expose the buttons that she needed to use. He also wrote what the buttons did on the sleeve.

Low-tech, cheap, and practical (which pretty much described his approach to problem-solving).
  #11  
Old 10-08-2019, 04:04 PM
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Not a cheap solution, but I was looking at the remote of a friend's Apple TV the other day, and was impressed by how simple it was, with a small number of large buttons.
  #12  
Old 10-08-2019, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by LurkMeister View Post
Or you could do what a friend of mine did years ago when his mother was visiting. He made a cardboard sleeve that fit over the remote(s) with cutouts to expose the buttons that she needed to use. He also wrote what the buttons did on the sleeve.

Low-tech, cheap, and practical (which pretty much described his approach to problem-solving).
That could probably work, but it seems like it might take more dexterity to use with the cardboard. Because of the thickness, I'm guessing the buttons would be sunken down within the cardboard and might be harder to press. Is it an issue of grabbing the sleeve part too hard and inadvertently causing the buttons underneath to be pressed?
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:03 PM
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If I'm remembering correctly it was thin cardboard, like posterboard, or maybe even paper, so there wasn't any chance of accidentally pressing adjoining buttons. The main point was to mask the buttons she didn't need to press. I think it also helped that his mom was only interested in watching one or two channels, so she wasn't going to be channel-surfing.
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Old 10-09-2019, 04:33 PM
Morgyn is offline
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My dad likes to change channels, though, and also likes to view shows that Mom records for him at his request—he can't figure out how to do that, so she does it. He does know how to play and delete recordings, and since that's a lot of what he watches ...

Turns out the people who make the Flipper also offer customization, so I've asked them if they have a version that will also access and play recorded shows on the DVR. If anyone is interested, I'll post an update when I know more.

ETA: Already got a response. They don't have buttons for DVRs, and I guess there are no plans to add any. Poop.

Last edited by Morgyn; 10-09-2019 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 10-09-2019, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgyn View Post
He has a bad habit of pushing the wrong buttons on the remote control for the TV and set top box.
Is the TV remote actually needed? Many STB remotes can be programmed to control the TV's power and volume. The power button on the STB remote will turn on the TV automatically. That would mean the TV remote could be put away and would be less likely to cause problems.
  #16  
Old 10-09-2019, 10:44 PM
Morgyn is offline
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Originally Posted by filmore View Post
Is the TV remote actually needed? Many STB remotes can be programmed to control the TV's power and volume. The power button on the STB remote will turn on the TV automatically. That would mean the TV remote could be put away and would be less likely to cause problems.
Sorry, my mis-expression. It's the remote for the STB, and it controls both the TV and the STB. But as I said, the buttons are small for a man who has Parkinsons disease, and there are a LOT of them.
  #17  
Old 10-10-2019, 08:30 AM
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There are remote systems which integrate with your smartphone or tablet. It should be possible in those to create a custom remote on the screen which just has the buttons you want. But I guess it depends on his dexterity if that would be better or not. I don't have experience with them, but I've seen them like this one Logitech Harmony. There are many other ones which do the same thing.
  #18  
Old 10-12-2019, 02:50 PM
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Would your dad be comfortable with a voice-activated remote? Logitech has something they call Harmony Express that uses Alexa, so you can pick it up and say "Go to DVR" or "Go to ESPN" and one would assume "Turn off TV" He'd just need to remember to plug it in every couple of weeks to charge the battery.

Or, they have the 950, which has a combo of regular buttons with DVR functions and a programable touchscreen, so with a little work by you in the Harmony app, you can de-program buttons (audio setup, AUX mode, etc.) that would only lead to confusion, and you can set up what Logitech calls activities like "Turn on TV" - if you've ever programmed "macros" on remotes before, it's a similar process except that there's no need to actually aim the remote at anything. It sends a radio signal to the base unit, which then sends out the remote signals, and they can be fairly complex.

As nothing's blocking the base unit's line of sight to the TV and STB, it all works. I've got my base unit tucked away on top of a rear channel surround speaker, almost at ceiling level, so unless someone's actually standing in front of the TV, the signals get through. In my setup, the oddball mayhem-inducing buttons aren't accessible from the remote at all - I have to use the Harmony app on my phone or iPad if I want to mess with "setup" things like surround modes, subwoofer level, etc.

ETA: just looked at the thing filmore linked - that's the base unit of my remote system, and my remote is what they call the Companion - no display, but the buttons are a bit small. It talks to either the Harmony app on your phone/tablet, or with certain Harmony remotes. One caveat is your dad's house needs to have Wifi. On the plus side, since the remote has no display, it runs on one or two CR2032 or similar button batteries for a year or more. No recharging needed.

Last edited by gotpasswords; 10-12-2019 at 02:55 PM.
  #19  
Old 10-12-2019, 06:26 PM
Morgyn is offline
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gotpasswords: maybe? His voice is very weak now thanks to the emphysema and Parkinson's, but if he can hold the remote closely to his mouth it might work.

At this point, if we were to go that direction, we'd have to get my brother to do this as he will be out there next month. See, my folks live in AZ, and my brother and I are both on the East Coast, so doing this sort of thing for them is quite the logistics issue.

ETA: They do not have and do not want anything like Alexa.

Last edited by Morgyn; 10-12-2019 at 06:29 PM.
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