An introduction to podcasts for older people
The world of podcasts is a fascinating one. This modern entertainment medium is incredibly diverse and can be both entertaining and enlightening, depending on what you’re listening to. Podcasts are such an easy form of entertainment to engage with and are perfectly suited to those of us who are spending more time at home or even when using public transport. In this guide we will introduce you to the podcast world, explaining what they are, how you can listen to them, and just which podcasts should be sought out.
What are podcasts?
Podcasts are essentially much like a radio programme, except instead of tuning in to frequency, you listen to a recording either online or via an app on your smartphone. Various companies and individuals will record conversations, interviews, stories and more, and then make them available to the public to listen to whenever they want. It’s incredibly convenient.
Why you should listen
There are many great reasons to listen to podcasts; whether you are now spending more time at home, requiring the use of helpful indoor stairlifts to get around, and therefore would like more of a variety and selection of entertainment to enjoy, or if you are travelling in the car or on public transport.
No matter what you’re into, podcasts will have something to suit your needs. If you want to hear the latest sports news, learn more about important historical events, or chuckle along with some of the funniest individuals in entertainment, there is no better medium for such disparate tastes than that of podcasts.
The Bello Collective, a website which brings together people who share a passion for audio storytelling, is a wonderful resource for those wanting to dive into the podcasting sphere. We spoke to The Bello Collective, asking them their thoughts on why people should listen to podcasts:
“At The Bello Collective, we love podcasting, but more than that we love that it is a medium that can give a voice to people who don't traditionally have the ability to broadcast stories about themselves or their communities.
“Podcasting has been around for quite some time, but we've recently seen a resurgence in the number of people who listen to and make podcasts (due, in part, to smartphones making podcasting ubiquitous and mobile!). Thanks to that resurgence, there is a show for everyone! Whether you want news, audio dramas, conversations, or stories, there is a podcast out there for you.”
The reasons to listen to a podcast are truly endless, and as such, we also wanted to bring you the thoughts of Daniel J. Lewis, host of ‘The Audacity to Podcast’ which is a show all about how to podcast.
“Unlike mainstream media, a podcast doesn't need a massive audience or sponsors to justify its existence”, Daniel told us. “Thus, there are podcasts about far more niche topics than you would ever see covered regularly in mainstream media. For example, there are probably a dozen podcasts about your favourite TV show, there are podcasts about the DOS-era PC games, there are podcasts about specific hobbies, and much more. Passion is in the niches, so it's common to find an extremely passionate community around these shared interests.
“Although podcasts can be audio or video,” Daniel continues, “most of them are audio and can thus be consumed anywhere. In other words, you can find a podcast about anything hosted by passionate people and consume that podcast anywhere with your mobile device.”
How to listen
There are a number of ways to listen to a podcast, each geared to your preferences and convenience.
Perhaps the easiest way to listen to podcasts is online via your computer or laptop. This is called streaming and will require a connection to the internet. SoundCloud has many of the world’s best podcasts available and is perhaps the most popular site for listening. We have recommended a number of great podcasts later on in this guide and have made sure to include links to where you can listen to them.
There are also entities called podcast networks, which basically act as publishers for a variety of podcasts, allowing listeners to find a number of shows all in one place. You can visit the websites of podcasting networks such as Wondery and Podcast One to listen to their shows online or find out more about the podcasts available. Wondery even has a helpful video about how to listen to a podcast which you can watch by clicking here.
Listeners can also download a podcast from apps such as Apple Podcasts on their smartphone or tablet, which allows you to store the podcast on your device, letting you listen on the go and without an internet connection.
First you will need to download the podcast app, then open it up, and then you can search for your desired podcast or browse the selection available. If you decide that you want to listen to a particular podcast, subscribe to it and then play your episode of choice! If you want to listen without an internet connection, make sure to download the individual podcast first.
Depending on your smart device, you have a number of options for which app to use, such as:
- Apple Podcasts - built into iPhones and iPads.
- Podcast Addict - a popular podcast app for Android devices that works very similarly to Apple Podcasts.
Further tips and advice
Now that we have broken down the main methods of listening to a podcast, we wanted to bring you some excellent advice from The Bello Collective:
“Most people come to podcasting through the Apple Podcasts app on their device, and while the app store can be a good place to find the most popular shows, there are a lot of independent shows that never appear there. If you use email, sign up for a few podcast newsletters, which are often curated by people who simply love good podcasts and want to share them with others.
“Finally, if you're really *just* getting started and are worried finding a podcast might be too complicated, let Mary show you how easy it can be with his helpful video.”
Daniel J. Lewis from The Audacity to Podcast also has some advice for those trying to decide what to listen to: “If you want to try a podcast for yourself, ignore the ‘top podcasts’ lists and focus on your passions: hobbies, TV shows, relationships, faith, and more. If you have an iPhone, find the purple icon Podcasts app. If you have an Android smartphone, get the Pocket Casts app. Then, simply search for that topic that interests you and try a couple of shows.”
Which podcasts to listen to
Now that you’ve begun your journey into the vast and exciting world of podcasts, and have an idea about how to listen to them, you will probably want a few suggestions! Well, fear not, we have you covered. You can find below an eclectic mix of podcasts from a variety of genres that you can give a go. If you like the sound of one, we have included an option to play an episode right from this article where possible, and also links to where you can stream the podcast. Just click on the links and explore the episodes available!
Nightime is a storytelling podcast that reveals the world of true crime and fascinating mysteries from the country of Canada. This intriguing collection of audio documentaries is a great way to escape from the world you see around you and will certainly be enjoyed by lovers of the paranormal and slightly weird.
Jordan is the host, writer, and producer of Nighttime, and he spoke to us about his podcast and why the medium has become so popular:
"Podcasting has launched a sort of renaissance in what used to simply be known as ‘radio’... no matter the interest of the listener there is someone out there passionate about the same things as you and covering it in a way you can connect to and it's free and ready and waiting for you to listen on your own schedule.
“If you want to hear a critical analysis of your favourite television show, intelligent consideration of the esoteric or unexplained, unscripted audio drama, endless sport coverage.... the selection of material available is only limited by the amount of time you have to listen!
“In my show, Nighttime, I cover Canadian stories that interest me. Often topics are crime, missing person cases, unexplained events, and the plain weird."
How to listen
You can listen to Nighttime episodes on the official website and via apps such as Apple Podcasts. Also, you can click play below to listen to the episode ‘Where is Troy Cook?’.
Stuff you missed in history class
For lovers of history and for those that wish they had paid more attention at school when the subject was taught, the aptly named Stuff You Missed in History Class is the perfect podcast for you. Hosted by two history fanatics, Tracy and Holly, this podcast brings you stories from time that you might not have heard about. This includes the story of Pope Sylvester and how he owned a large swathe of Roman land for centuries thanks to a forged document.
How to listen
You can listen to the aforementioned episode by clicking play below. You can also listen to all past episodes via the podcast’s website.
Wooden Overcoats is a quirky podcast that comes in the form of a sitcom and details the story of Rudyard Funn, a man who runs his family’s failing funeral parlour. Set on the island of Piffling, the funeral parlour soon has to compete with a popular new rival undertaker – the charismatic Eric Chapman.
Wooden Overcoats told us: “We love how podcasts are allowing all sorts of new talent to get their work to audiences. Our show is inspired by the great UK radio sitcoms of the last few decades.”
How to listen
For those that can’t get enough of true crime, Criminal is a podcast that must be listened to. With a new podcast twice a month, Criminal expertly tells intensely fascinating crime stories with the help of enthralling sound design and top-notch writing.
How to listen
Take a listen to Episode 77 below, which tells the story of two men who escaped a seemingly inescapable prison and how the case is still being pursued 50 years later.
The Comedian’s Comedian
Obsessed with comedy and want to further ensconce yourself in the ins and outs of this fascinating craft? Well, comedian Stuart Goldsmith has the perfect podcast for you. Aptly named The Comedian’s Comedian, Stuart interviews a who’s who of professional funny people, finding out just how they perfect their craft.
We were delighted to hear from Stuart on the subject of podcasts and their many virtues, as well as what makes The Comedian’s Comedian a must-listen:
"Despite the odd-sounding word, podcasts are simply radio programmes on demand. And not only can you listen to your favourite BBC radio shows at a time of your choosing, and access older episodes going back years, you can also discover thousands of homemade audio shows by people sometimes literally in their bedrooms! Comedy, discussion, documentary, news, anything you can think of - someone is out there talking about it, and would be thrilled if you listened!
"My own podcast is all about how the nation's favourite comedians write, improvise or otherwise develop their material. You can hear people like Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican and Russell Brand being incredibly candid about their writing techniques and their personal responses to the challenges of a creative life. The show really gets into people's heads, and like a lot of the best podcasts, the lack of an official producer or network means that you get to hear a very unvarnished and real version of your favourite comedian."
How to listen
Take a listen below to Stuart’s podcast with master producer John Lloyd of QI and Blackadder fame for a taste of what to expect. For a full list of episodes, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or visit his website.
Mentioned earlier on in this guide, Wondery is a fantastic podcasting service that produces a great number of fascinating shows on a variety of topics. Wondery kindly recommended to us a few that they believe must be tried:
“Start with ‘Dirty John’, a story about love, denial, deception and ultimately survival. It was one of the most popular podcasts in the world in 2017. Then go on to ‘Hollywood & Crime’, ‘Tides of History’ and ‘Business Wars’.”
Wondery also spoke to us about what makes podcasts such an enticing prospect: “Podcasts are an immersive medium: they allow listeners to feel they’re in the middle of the story as its happening. Podcasts are at the same time entertaining and eye-opening; a perfect example is our series ‘American History Tellers’, where you can learn about different events in American history, for instance Prohibition, in an engaging way.”
As mentioned by Wondery, Tides of History will prove to be a tremendous listen, where host Patrick Wyman delves deep into fascinating moments from across the ages, using sound design, narration, and expert historical knowledge to bring events such as the military revolution to life. If you are a history buff, or just want to learn more about the past, Tides of History could quickly become one of your favourite podcasts.
How to listen
You can listen to the episode called The Military Revolution by clicking play below. To see the full playlist of episodes, head over to their website. Tides of History is also available to download on Apple Podcasts.
For a full list of Wondery shows, visit their website.
As you might be able to tell, there is a thriving storytelling niche within the podcast world, and if this genre interests you, then you will want to know about Lore.
This is an award-winning podcast that excels in telling true-life stories that are bound to send a chill down your spine. These scary tales explore the darker side of history, involving people, creatures and locations straight from your wildest nightmares.
How to listen
To listen to the Lore podcast, head on over to their official website, take a look at the entire collection of episodes, and just click play on your desired instalment.
Lore is also available to download direct from their website, and you can subscribe to the podcast via Apple podcasts and other podcast services.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company
The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a truly fascinating and equally funny podcast that delves into all things Shakespeare. This podcast will prove to be the perfect show for those that have an interest in theatre and of course the legendary playwright.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company provides great insights into the theatre world, and to tell us more about the podcast, we spoke to Austin Tichenor, writer, performer and managing partner on the show:
“I love producing the podcast week after week (it’s been 581 weeks, in fact; over 11 years) because it’s a celebration of lively conversation, conducted by comedians and playwrights and actors and directors and designers and composers talking intelligently and humorously about their craft. And at an average length of 20 minutes, each episode is just long enough to stay on topic — and stay interesting.”
Regarding the virtues of podcast listening, Austin touched on how the medium became a great joy to someone important in his own life:
“My mom was devoted to her devices, first her iPhone then her iPad, and read books and listened to podcasts on them. For her, it was a way to stay current and entertained because she could so easily find content that was meaningful to her. In fact, she was an author herself and I was able to interview her less than a month before she died about the book she wrote that’s still in print. I cherish this recording, and you can find it here: http://reducedshakespeare.com/2010/05/episode-178-the-ballet-book/”
How to listen
Austin recommends listening to an episode about how Shakespeare is being used in prisons to almost completely eliminate recidivism rates amongst its participants. You can listen to the podcast at their website by following this link and clicking play.
You can see the whole archive of the show’s podcasts on this page. Each episode is also able to be downloaded from their website.
The Allusionist is a fascinating series by Helen Zaltzman that is all about the joys of language. From how crosswords are made to the truth about Dickens and Christmas, The Allusionist podcast utilises interviews and expert knowledge to help discover the truth behind a litany of intriguing linguistic subjects.
How to listen
For an example episode, click play below to listen to an instalment of the programme all about the evolution of accents. You can also listen to all past episodes on their website, Apple Podcasts, and on SoundCloud.
Many who have spent years enjoying certain radio programmes on the BBC might be interested to learn that they can listen to their favourite shows from the broadcaster in podcast format. No matter which station you like listening to – Radio 2, Radio 5 Live, Radio 4 etc. – you’ll now be able to listen whenever you like, which is very helpful if you should happen to miss the live broadcast.
How to listen
To listen to your favourite BBC radio shows, click the link to the podcasts page of their website. Once you find your favourite show, you can either click play or download the episode to your device/computer.
Serial is one of the most famous podcasts in the world and has been instrumental in introducing podcasts to wider public attention. Telling one true story over the course of a season, just like TV, Serial sees audiences following along a fascinating plot and characters that are bound to keep you guessing at every turn. There have been two seasons to date, with the first season detailing the story of Adnan Syed, who was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
How to listen
Each week Nature release a new podcast show. Every episode explores a new and fascinating aspect of science, perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about this incredible world that we live in. Hosted by Kerri Smith and Adam Levy, Nature Podcast is incredibly well researched, educational, and further informed by a team of top reporters from across the globe.
One particularly gripping episode was all about the hunt for the source of gravitational waves and the merging of neutron stars.
How to listen
You can also see their complete archive on the Nature Podcast website.
Public Radio Exchange
The Public Radio Exchange (PRX) is another wonderful resource for great podcasting entertainment. PRX is a vibrant and eclectic social network where people gather to hear great stories and interesting shows from podcasters everywhere.
There’s all sorts to discover at PRX. For example, for avid readers and book lovers, the Shelf Discovery podcast can be listened to, where host Kristen Dreyer Kramer offers listeners a look inside the pages of a brand new book.
How to listen
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