How It’s Made: ideal TV for elderly populations

I wish I can remember the blogger that clued me in about it, but I’ve recently become addicted to the show “How it’s Made.” (on the Discovery Channel). Here’s the informative wikipedia page about the show. It’s great and actually serves a very specific purpose. I take care of a relative with bad hearing and Alzheimer’s. It’s hard to get him interested in anything. He is comfortable watching TV, and always puts on the random news channel…usually Fox and CNN. It’s mildly infuriating for editorial reasons…I can’t stand the breezy superficial style of these news networks or the commercials. Also, they repeat so much content–and when you have the natural disaster or murder of the day, it can be fatiguing to see the same segments over and over.

That’s why How It’s Made is such a godsend to me. First, although it has commercials obviously, it is not as segmented as CNN segments. It’s also very visual and full of activity and movement while not overloading the viewer. The announcer is invisible and almost anonymous; in fact, you could turn the volume completely down and still enjoy most of the show! 10 Minutes is just enough time to cover the manufacturing process of a simple object. The format is simple: depict the manufacturing process of a common everyday object from start to finish. Today, the featured objects are artificial eyes, old-fashioned stagecoaches, cranberries; ink stamps, yarn.

The show is about manufacturing equipment and processes. It’s busy, busy, busy, reminiscent of Reggio/Glass Koyaanisqatsi (but without the metaphysical overtones). Unpretentious yet it covers the entire process in a series of quick scene edits, each lasting 2-5 seconds long. It’s hypnotic and sleep-inducing at the same time, like watching a random series of nature scenes without rhyme or reason. Yet it would delight the mechanically-inclined or simply the curious; it makes you ponder factories and manufacturing. Wouldn’t it be fun to manufacture ink stamps or tofu? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to make and fit artificial eyes (it would make me a little squeamish, but..).

It’s the kind of show that can engage you in a casual way (I’m watching it while typing this), or you can view it as a kind of tutorial about the manufacturing process.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch this show, but I’m glad shows like this actually exist.

For an Alzheimer’s or elderly patient, the show is good for these reasons:

  1. show segments are 5-10 minutes long, so doesn’t require a lot of intellectual involvement.
  2. the show is extremely rich visually, with lots of movement and fascinating angles
  3. there is a narration, but you don’t need to actually hear it to enjoy the show itself (good for people hard of hearing)
  4. it is a very relaxing show, with pleasant background music
  5. it’s easy to follow;First, they do this, then they do this, etc.
  6. the show is about the manufacturing of common everyday objects which an elderly person would recognize. Today, for example, they did Stop Signs, Ink Stamps, cranberries, artificial eyes.






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