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Podcasts: A New Golden Age of Audio

Who’s making them and how to listen

Five smartphones with podcast images on their screens

Dan Saelinger

From education to entertainment, podcasts cover many categories, and listeners 55 and older have increased drastically in recent years.

Remember the Apple iPod? Its surge in popularity in the early 2000s ushered in the podcasting era: audio entertainment made specifically for downloading to a computer or mobile device.

Some 15 years later, we have arrived at a golden age for podcasts. With hundreds of thousands of audio programs available on topics broad (NBA basketball, American history) to niche (knitting, Atari 2600 games), a wealth of stories and information is instantly available to stream on demand, whenever we want.

“Radio is hit or miss. It’s frustrating to be in the middle of something realizing, This research is about 20-something males and doesn’t apply to me at all,” says Debra Atkinson, host of “The Flipping 50 Show,” a health podcast for older listeners. “You can search for a podcast on topics you’re most interested in, and you can also find a voice you know, like and trust.”

More of us are doing just that. Monthly podcast listening by those 55 and older has increased some 70 percent since 2014, according to Edison Research, and new technology — voice-activated speakers, internet-connected cars — is making shows easier to find and hear.

Where to get podcasts

iPhones come with the Apple Podcasts app preloaded. Tap on the purple “podcasts” icon to find shows. You can browse the top podcasts or search for a particular show.

If you’re on a Wi-Fi network, just stream the show without downloading it. If you need to download to your device, tap the cloud and arrow icon.

For Android devices, there are plenty of free apps you can download to get podcasts. The music streaming app Spotify is easy to use. Others you can use: CastBox, Stitcher Radio, Google Play Music and TuneIn.

When you find a show you like, tap the subscribe button (many podcasts are free) so that new episodes appear automatically.

Some Podcasters Over 50

David Knight, 55

BACK IN THE DAVE

Back in the Dave

Typical episode: 30 minutes, biweekly

What it’s about: “You hear a song, and right away, a memory comes back!” Knight says, about his interest in classic tunes. 

How it started: “I wanted to add value to baby boomers’ lives. I felt our music, our stories and our era were missing.”


Debra Atkinson, 54

Flipping 50

The Flipping 50 Show

Typical episode: 30-40 minutes, once a week

What it’s about: “I strive to reduce the ‘infobesity’ and overwhelming amount of conflicting information about exercise, nutrition and lifestyle habits for women midlife and older — by addressing their most frequent questions and busting myths. Most of all, it’s about hope.” 

How it started: “I’ve been in a fitness career for 34 years and a teacher for 15 years, speaking to audiences and teaching at a university. So speaking a message seemed very organic.”


Marc Miller, 61

MARC MILLER

Repurpose Your Career

Typical episode: 30 minutes, once a week

What it’s about: “For those in the second half of life who want or need to make a change in their profession or industry.”

How it started: “We all reach a point in life when something changes. For me it began in 2002 with a near-fatal bike accident at age 46. Over time it led me to starting a podcast.”


Other podcasts we recommend

Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel

It’s like being a fly on the wall in some of the juiciest couples therapy sessions imaginable — and you don’t have to pay! Even if you’re skeptical of every shrink you’ve ever met, there’s always a learning moment with Perel, where you recognize yourself, your significant other or your family dynamic in the conversation. — Lori Berger, entertainment editor

99% Invisible

How the introduction of air-conditioning changed the look of homes in America. How the sports bra was invented. How filmmakers make prop money that isn’t too realistic to be considered counterfeit. Host Roman Mars and team explain how design factors influence our lives and culture. — George Mannes, senior editor

Lore

Ever wander past an old cemetery or an abandoned mansion and wonder what stories are buried within? “Lore” explores the dark and creepy intersection of history and horror. Host Aaron Mahnke dives into the backstory of the Salem witch trials, the New England vampire panic and more. It’s always creepier when it’s true. — Steve Perrine, special projects editor

The Osbournes Podcast

Rocker Ozzy and clan — Sharon, Kelly, Jack — are back and ready to reminisce about their lives since their MTV reality show went off the air 13 years ago. It speaks to the universality of the medium that someone like mush-mouthed Ozzy could get a podcast of his own. — Austin O’Connor, senior digital producer

Support Is Sexy

Hosted by media entrepreneur Elayne Fluker, this podcast has five new episodes a week and features inspiring women entrepreneurs who share their personal ups and downs — where they started, when they struggled and how they still made success happen. — Claire McIntosh, senior editor

The Adventure Zone

Three brothers and their father go on fantasy quests. Each episode is quirky, free-ranging and funny, with story lines that roam beyond the known world. — Holly Zimmerman, senior editorial researcher 

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