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Podcasts for Grownups: 9 Expert Recommendations

Whether you enjoy true crime, comedy, advice or narrative storytelling, binge-listen to these

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Slate Podcasts / iHeartMedia Inc. / Lemonada / Mobituaries / Team Coco / SmartLess, LLC

What will you be talking about around the dining table during the holidays this year? Maybe that depends on what you’re listening to. Whether you have a long drive or flight to get to your holiday destination or need some company while you bake or decorate, podcasts could be the answer for keeping you entertained and in the know.

The popularity of podcasting has grown dramatically in the past five years, but listenership among boomers is much lower than among younger audiences, according to a study published in April by Edison Research and NPR. The study estimates that 120 million Americans age 12 and older listen to podcasts every month.

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“If boomers’ levels of listening to podcasts matched that of younger groups, even just 35- to 54-year-olds, that would mean these numbers would go to over 150 million monthly listeners,” says Larry Rosin, president of Edison Research, which has been analyzing podcast listening since 2005.

That’s not to say that older grownups aren’t tuning in. People 50 and older are mostly consuming traditional radio shows as podcasts (This American Life, The Ramsey Show, The Ben Shapiro Show and Fresh Air, for example), following political commentators and personalities.

While news and political commentary engage listeners, Rosin says there’s plenty of bespoke and niche podcasts with which boomers may not be familiar. When Serial — a narrative, investigative journalism podcast from the makers of NPR’s weekly public radio show This American Life — became popular in 2014, Rosin says there was a lot of outreach on helping people understand what podcasts are and how to access them. That has since stopped.

“You just don’t see that kind of outreach anymore,” he says. “And I think that it was just a little too premature to stop the outreach. … Had that continued, there will probably be more people 50-plus listening to podcasts now.”

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Ellen Horne, director of the podcasting and audio reportage program at New York University, teaches the next generation of podcasters and reporters. She’s also taught her almost 90-year-old mother how to access podcasts through her iPod Shuffle. “She pretty much stopped using technology at that point,” Horne says. “That’s how she’s listening to podcasts if she’s listening to podcasts.”

But there’s no need to download an audio file to listen if you have a smartphone. The two most popular podcast streaming apps and services are Spotify (which comes installed in newer Samsung devices, including TVs) and Apple Podcasts (which comes installed in iOS devices.) Horne says podcasts are getting easier to access and contain a wealth of entertainment and education, no matter your interests.

“There’s a specialty podcast for everyone. Whatever you’re into, I’m sure there’s one out there,” says Horne. “I think it’s important to understand, yes, there are young listeners and young makers. But that’s not everything. There are definitely much older [listeners and makers] too.”

Want to tune into a podcast but feel overwhelmed with the options out there? Horne and Rosin recommend these podcasts hosted by people over 50, available for streaming on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify and other major podcasting platforms.

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Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis Dreyfus

Emmy-winning actress Julia Louis Dreyfus, 62, interviews women over age 70. She’s tapped into the wisdom of Jane Fonda, Carol Burnett and more, discussing friendship, love and how to live a meaningful life.

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Mobituaries with Mo Rocca

CBS News correspondent Mo Rocca, 54, talks about his favorite dead icons, from Audrey Hepburn to Sammy Davis Jr., to diverse things like mid-Atlantic accents and Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice. Rosin calls it a “wonderful show,” and for him, it makes sense that the listeners are 76 percent 50-plus, according to Edison Research data.

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Slate Podcasts

Hit Parade

For music lovers, this podcast hosted by Slate pop-chart analyst Chris Molanphy, 52, deep dives into how a song became a hit. “It’s extremely well researched and well done,” says Rosin, who says the podcast has artists ranging from older ones such as Sam Cooke to newer ones such as P!nk.

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Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel

Listening to this podcast is “almost like putting a cup on the door and listening to a therapy session,” Horne says. Hosted by psychotherapist Esther Perel, 65, each episode lets listeners in on a counseling session featuring real people and their relational problems. “You can learn something from the way she counsels couples,” Horne says.

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iHeartMedia Inc.

The Girlfriends

This nine-part series follows a group of women who come together to testify against their ex-boyfriend, who is charged with murdering his wife. Horne says that despite its being a grisly crime story, the narrative element of the podcast makes it a fun listen. Listening to The Girlfriends, hosted by Carole Fisher, 65, is like chatting with your own girlfriends about “going out for brunch and dating,” says Horne. The podcast was developed in collaboration with the NO MORE Foundation, a domestic and sexual violence prevention charity, and Fisher is passionate about advocating against elder abuse, particularly for women.

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SmartLess, LLC


Sean Hayes, 53, Jason Bateman, 54, and Will Arnett, 53, host this comedy interview podcast that ranks No. 3 (the highest for a comedy podcast) for listeners 50 and older, according to Edison Research data for podcasting in the third quarter of 2023. Each week, one of the actors brings along a mystery guest (anyone from President Joe Biden to actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish), so the humor and banter emerges from pure improvisation. “They get along with each other beautifully,” Rosin says.

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Dear Sugars

Cheryl Strayed, 55, anonymously helped those seeking advice in her New York Times column Dear Sugar. In 2012, she made her columns a collection of essays for her book Tiny Beautiful Things (now a Hulu miniseries), and in 2014, she teamed up with short story writer, essayist and author Steve Almond, 57, to start a podcast where listeners could call in for “radically empathic advice.” The podcast stopped producing new episodes in 2018, but Horne says the “almost shockingly honest, emotional tone” from the hosts can bring comfort to listeners.

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Team Coco

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

The former Late Night host has interviewed plenty of celebrities throughout his talk show career, but with his podcast, O’Brien, 60, hopes to make a friend by diving deeper in discussion. In the third quarter of 2023, this podcast ranks at No. 15 among listeners 50 and older, just above the WTF podcast with Marc Maron, which has been a mainstay in comedy podcasting since 2009.

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All There Is with Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper, 56, explores his journey with grief following the death of his mother, heiress and fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt, in 2019. In this eight-episode podcast, Cooper goes through Vanderbilt’s left-behind belongings and talks with a range of people including a friend of his mother, comedian and Late Show host Stephen Colbert, a hospice and palliative care physician and others who have firsthand experience with grief. Horne calls it a “fantastic” podcast, “really well made.”

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