To mark the Podcast Day conference being hosted in London this week, charity Independent Age has released a list of podcasts perfect for introducing older people to the medium.
While the number of podcast listeners in the UK doubled between 2013 and 2018, people aged 65 and over still accounted for a disproportionately low percentage of the audience.
Lucy Harmer, Director of Services, Independent Age, said:
“Podcasts can be a fantastic form of information, entertainment, and engagement for older people, particularly for those who might have trouble reading.
“Radio is a particularly beloved medium for many older people, and the growth of podcasts has kept that familiarity while making an even wider range of content accessible.”
This long-form interview podcast sees broadcaster Chris Heath sit down with an older person and have a cup of tea and a chat about their life story. While Chris has uncovered some incredible tales – like surviving the Nazi regime in Hungary – just as remarkable are the human moments of love, friendship and growing up.
Episode to try: 19 – ‘Brian O’Donnell’
This American Life is one of the world’s most popular radio shows and podcasts, bringing a variety of stories around a theme every week. It often highlights the stories of older people – try episode 172, ’24 Hours at the Golden Apple’, where the reporters find stories at an all-hours diner for an entire day. One of the best episodes is ‘The Heart Wants What It Wants’, following a 76-year-old man who is about to travel across the country to ask a woman he went to high school with to marry him.
Episode to try: 589 – ‘No Coincidence, No Story’
One of the world’s longest-running radio shows, Desert Island Discs has seen its guests ‘cast away’ and asked to choose their favourite songs since 1941. The programme has featured mega-celebrities – like Bill Gates, Yoko Ono, and Marlene Dietrich – but some of the best moments have come from lesser-known guests, such as war zone surgeon David Nott.
Episode to try: ‘Daniel Barenboim’ (2006)
One for lovers of language. Host Helen Zaltzman takes apart words, phrases, and language trends that most people never think about. From looking at words and expressions that started out as mistakes, to why people choose to change their names, The Allusionist provides a fascinating insight into how we communicate.
Episode to try: 76 – ‘Across the Pond’
You Must Remember This takes a step back in time to the golden years of Hollywood – focussing on forgotten or secret stories from this era. The show started as a passion project, but has since become a hugely popular listen for film and history buffs.
Episode to try: ‘Charlie Chaplin’s Road to Hollywood Exile’
TED Talks are short, powerful lectures that will have you thinking outside the box. TED started out as a conference covering ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’, but now TED talks bring new ideas to every topic imaginable, from science (is ours the only universe?), to sociology (do schools kill creativity?), to history (the elegance of African languages) and beyond.
Episode to try: ‘Life’s third act’
The ‘stuff’ explained in this conversational podcast is unlikely to be found in the average high school history text. The show stretches back to 2008, so there are plenty of topics to choose from – whether that’s the life of the first woman to run for US President, or the ‘Cod Wars’ between Britain and Iceland.
Episode to try: ‘A Brief History of Time Capsules’
Billed as uncovering ‘the hidden side of everything’, this US public radio podcast takes a close look at human behaviour – and why it’s not always rational or economic. Host Stephen J. Dubner takes an evidence-based approach to accessible topics – like ‘here’s why you’re not an elite athlete – speaking to celebrated academics, business leaders and Nobel laureates.
Episode to try: ‘How to fail like a pro’
Independent Age has factsheets and advice guides on staying socially connected, technology at home, and ways to overcome loneliness. They can be ordered for free by calling 0800 319 6789, or downloaded from the 'Information' page on this website.
 Ofcom, 2018, ‘Podcast listening booms in the UK’.