Podcasts are educational, entertaining, and free: call them ‘internet radio on-demand’. Think of a topic and someone’s doing a podcast on it. Anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or computer can listen to them. You can even tell Alexa or Google Home to play them for you. Podcasts don’t just provide entertaining, educational or distracting content, though. Seniors who listen to podcasts can also benefit from the way the brain responds to narrative. Following a story, a news report, or a historical chronicle as it’s spoken requires concentration, engages memory and stimulates the brain. It’s time for caregivers, home care aides and seniors to get on the podcast train with our guide to the how, what and where of podcasts.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a form of entertainment invented in the 21st century, thanks to the Apple iPod. The word ‘podcast’ is a mash-up of iPod and broadcast. Why iPod? In the early aughts, the iPod was the dominant listening device – a role that is now played by the smartphone. But the name sticks. You know you’re listening to a podcast when: 1. You access it via the web, 2. You can listen to it anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or iPod, 3. You subscribe to it in a podcast app and 4. You get a new show daily, weekly or monthly. The first podcast was published online in 2003, and today, there are more than 500,000 shows available for download. Not episodes – shows! So there’s truly a podcast for everyone, no matter what your taste.

How Do You Listen to a Podcast?

Podcasts are published online and accessed through any available podcast app or podcast show specific website. The Apple Store for iPhones and iPads and the Google Play Store for Android phones and tablets carry podcast subscription apps that allow you to browse, listen and subscribe to the podcast of your choice. These mobile devices allow you to listen to your shows wherever you go, via headphones or by the device speaker. You don’t have a mobile device, or you don’t use apps? Tell Alexa or your Google Home device to open a podcast app and play the most recent episode of any show. Want to listen on your stationary computer? Most popular podcasts have websites that post each new show, so you can listen as though your computer were a radio.

What Should You Listen To?

About 20% of people over 55 are listening to podcasts right now, and there are many lists of the best podcasts for seniors. But there are so many genres and topics available – more than 500,000, remember? – that no single list can cover all your options. The shows are sorted into broad categories: arts, business, comedy, education, games & hobbies, government & organizations, health, kids & family, music, news & politics, religion & spirituality, science & medicine, society & culture, sports & recreation, technology, and tv & film. Yikes! You have some browsing ahead of you! Here’s the tiniest sample of some shows that the 55 and up crowd likes, in no particular order:

  • Car Talk (show name in iTunes)
    • cartalk.com (website)
    • Click and Clack’s popular public radio show is now replaying as a podcast.
  • Lux Radio Theatre
  • You Must Remember This
  • The Allusionist
  • Hardcore History
  • Ted Talks
    • www.ted.com
    • more than 2800 talks on topics from A to Z, each 18 minutes or less, delivered by experts and passionate amateurs
  • Guided Meditations
    • https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations
    • one of umpteen meditation shows that walk you through meditation for better health

Get on the Podcast Train!

These are just a handful of the shows available, and everyone’s taste is different. The important thing to remember is that anyone can access podcasts if they have a device that connects to the internet. There is a whole world of entertainment, information, and opinion out there, waiting for seniors to connect to it. No matter how they listen, caregivers, home care aides and seniors can all enjoy the way podcasts bring the world right to them.