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Finding New Ways to Stay Connected During the Pandemic

Why podcasts are a great way to form meaningful connections

anna sale

Mindy Tucker/AARP

 

 

Wilma Consul:

The pandemic has kept us inside for almost a year now. And while locked in, we found all kinds of things to enrich our lives -- feeding that starter for the sourdough bread you’ve dreamt of baking since you were born, creating planters hoping to develop that green thumb. And some spent time listening to podcasts...much like what you’re doing now, listening to us.

 

On today’s episode, we will learn more about this thing called podcast.

 

Anna Sale:

It's a kind of media that you can opt into when you need it and when you want it. 

 

Wilma Consul:

Anna Sale from Death, Sex and Money gives good reasons why podcasts should be your new friend.

 

Hi, I’m Wilma Consul, and with an AARP Take On Today. 

 

Anna Sale reported on news and politics for public radio. After doing this for so many years, she found herself wanting to tell people’s stories with more texture and depth. What came of it is a show called Death, Sex and Money. As the host, she gets people to talk honestly about things they’re dealing with in times when no one would talk about it. And it’s a podcast.

 

Anna Sale:

The thing that's pretty special about podcasting is it's a kind of media that you can opt into when you need it and when you want it. So it has this feel of a community when you're pressing play, when you choose to listen to something. So I think that that has this kind of magic along with it, that the interviews that I'm able to do, people are perhaps a little more open, a little more willing to be vulnerable than they would be if they were in a TV studio or talking live on the radio. It just has that extra quality of intimacy that allows all of us to open up a little bit more.

 

Wilma Consul:

Now, do you remember the exact time where you decided, “you know, I want to do this podcast”?

 

Anna Sale:

I do. And it was this feeling of exhilaration and fear. I was walking my dog and the name of the show occurred to me, Death, Sex, & Money. I was like, "I'm going to pitch this idea." And then I thought, "Oh my gosh, am I bold enough to pitch an idea called Death, Sex, & Money?" What does this mean about me that I want to be the host of a show with sex in the title?

 

That's how the idea came to me. I said, "I need this, actually. I need a show where I can hear with more detail about how people have gotten through stuff that I'm struggling with." And it turns out other people needed it too.

 

Wilma Consul:

You talked about the intimacy. We've always talked about radio is intimate, but you're saying that podcasts is a little bit more intimate, because if we want to listen to Morning Edition, you either have to listen to it in the morning or catch it on the website at noon, afternoon, right?

 

Anna Sale:

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Wilma Consul:

But you're saying that podcasts now is like it's right there. You want to listen to it. You kind of binge on it the way... We have Netflix nowadays and Amazon Prime and Hulu. We want to just keep going with this.

 

Anna Sale:

My theory is that because it's an on demand kind of listening that you're opting in, that then it's like oh, I'm like joining my club. I'm coming and showing up and going to listen to my podcast right now. And so the relationships that I have with podcast hosts, even if they don't know me at all, I feel deeply connected to them.

 

And I feel deeply connected also to my fellow listeners. That's been something that's very cool about making Death, Sex, & Money. We continually just ask these really broad, open questions of our audience, to ask them to share stories about everything from going through infidelity in relationships, to how they're dealing with debt in their lives, to how they're dealing with getting older. And people share. And then we share those stories back with our listeners. And so you begin to have this sense of oh, this is who else is listening, this is this community that I'm a part of. And it just creates a real sense of gathering and belonging, even though you're listening by yourself, which I have really appreciated, especially in these last several months when I haven't been able to be in person with so many people I care about.

 

Wilma Consul:

Now, let's talk a little bit about one of the episodes you guys did on aging. And it came about because of a listener's email to you. Let's listen in.

 

Anna Sale:

For a moment, I want to go back a few years to an email that came into the Death, Sex, & Money inbox. The subject was-

 

Jo Ann Allen:

Sale doesn't understand aging. She's young.

 

Anna Sale:

The email was from a listener named Ayana Lowe, who is 64 and lives in New York City. She wrote in after she'd listened to an interview I did with model and actress, Brooke Shields, and she found that parts of it were lacking.

 

Jo Ann Allen:

I wish Ms. Sale asked Ms. Shields to talk about getting older in depth. How does it feel to be 50 years old in a world that celebrates youth? How does Ms. Shields cope with her changing body and the way people react to her? These are the questions that my friends and I struggling with. My identity is shifting as I age, and I want more conversation about getting older. The last taboo is age-ism. Please start talking about it, Ms. Sale.

 

Wilma Consul:

What can you say about that?

 

Anna Sale:

Oh, I loved that email. I love the subject, Sale doesn't understand aging. I can remember when that email came in. I can remember my conversations with Ayana afterwards and it really did shape our thinking about wanting to do something ambitious around the experience of aging, and in particular, look at just all the ways it affects how you think of yourself and how you think of your life as you notice these changes in your body and how you're relating to others and how others are relating to you.

 

Anna Sale:

And we decided, actually, when we wanted to do this big project, looking at aging, that it would be cool if it wasn't me doing the interviewing, because we've certainly had a number of guests who are older people on the show over the many years and they tend to be some of my very favorite episodes. But they have this quality... I'm now 40, and so they have this quality when I'm interviewing somebody who's in their 70s or 80s of kind of like I'm sitting at their knee and trying to harvest their wisdom, kind of.

 

Anna Sale:

And those interviews are wonderful, but it has such a different quality when you're hearing two people who are experiencing aging, kind of comparing notes about it, and can looking at the specifics of how their experiences differ and what's similar. And it doesn't have that tone of making the older person have to be in this position of, “wise older person who has the answers to impart on a younger generation”, but can instead talk about all the messiness, along with the joy.

 

Wilma Consul:

That's when you guys decided to have the guest host, Jo Ann Allen. She's over 65 and works for the NPR member station in Denver. And she hosts a podcast called Been There, Done That, right, and it's about the trials and lessons of aging. What did you learn from Jo Ann in that episode that you didn't know before about aging?

 

Anna Sale:

Well, two things that I have loved about working with Jo Ann... A cool backstory note... is Jo Ann... Actually, I gave a talk years ago at a podcasting conference about how to start a podcast and Jo Ann happened to be in the audience and she looked at me and she said, "I could do that." She launched her podcast, which are these wonderful conversations about boomers, in particular, is who her podcast focuses on, looking back at their lives and describing their lives now.

 

Anna Sale:

And I interviewed Jo Ann for one of our episodes, as we sort of kicked off the series and asked for stories from our listeners. I loved talking with her about...in particular I loved hearing from her how COVID has changed the way she thinks about herself and her age and the way that that, the forced slowing down has made her think about how does she want to spend the rest of her life? A little bit more than she was when she was just go, go, going and showing up at the office every day.

 

Anna Sale:

And then hearing the conversations she had with our listeners, I really loved all the contrasts that she brought. Jo Ann is not married. She lives alone. She didn't have children. Some of the people we heard from also didn't have children and were unmarried people. Some were in 40 year marriages, 50 year marriages, talking about how those relationships have changed. And I just loved Jo Ann's particular style of interviewing, which is very direct. She asked very clear questions about what she wanted to know about their lives and how they're feeling it at this point.

 

Wilma Consul:

There's an episode in Life After 60 or, well, there's a moment in Life After 60 that you talk to a mother, or there was a caller Susan, and she felt disconnected from her daughter. I think we have that tape. Let's listen.

 

Susan:

My daughter lives in New Zealand and now with the pandemic, we talk at least once a week, but we don't know when we're going to see each other again. And even before the pandemic, she said to me, at one point, "I just started thinking about how many times we get to be together again." And I think that's the kind of thing that you start thinking about at age 70, is how much time is there left? How many times do I get to do this? If I'm going to do something, I better do it now. That's very much in my mind.

 

Wilma Consul:

Do you remember that call, Anna?

 

Anna Sale:

Yeah, I do. Certainly everyone who has gone through the COVID pandemic and had their lives disrupted has felt it in very particular ways. But what Susan's describing there is something that I think is maybe more pronounced for people who are older, which is this idea of this is making me realize that there's a limit on how much time there is left, and this is making me think about what I'm missing, because COVID is preventing me from living life the way I want to live my life and it ratchets up the stakes of it all.

 

Anna Sale:

What I love about...what followed from that was Susan told Jo Ann about how she's starting to do the math, where she thinks about when she might die, how many years she has left, and then she subtracts that number of years back and thinks about how that wasn't that long ago. And Jo Ann just says, "Don't do that, Susan." Which I thought was... It's such a normal thing to do to try to get a sense of time and how it... the speed at which it's passing. And it was just a nice reminder of... but we can also torture ourselves by thinking too much about how time is whipping past.

 

Wilma Consul:

Now, one reason why we wanted to talk to you also is that you might shed light on why the over 50 or over 60, over 70 plus generation should be listening to podcasts. Can you tell me if you have any idea, if you guys had... how your listeners increased any increase of listeners in the older population, when you guys did these... when you do these episodes about life after 60?

 

Anna Sale:

We've heard from listeners who had never heard of our show before, because in some instances, their children, their adult children had shared the episode with them, then we heard from them and what they took from it, which I just loved.

 

Anna Sale:

And then we also heard from a number of our listeners who've been listening to us for years, but who just were moved by the idea of having their lives centered and what was going on in their lives instead of having the conversation always be focused on younger people.

 

Anna Sale:

I think the thing that I've noticed statistically, that the percentage of older listeners of podcasts overall is increasing. It's something that there are more older people listening to podcast every year. And I think that that's really great. I've noticed with my own mom, who's in her 70s, she tells me about things that she's listening to since she learned how to use her podcast app-

 

Wilma Consul:

Nice.

 

Anna Sale:

... to listen to her daughter's show and now she's listening to other things. And I think the thing that's so cool about podcasting is two things. First of all, it's an ability to time shift and be in control of if you weren't around when your favorite show was on the radio, you can go and listen to it and pull it up and listen to that great interview from Fresh Air that Terry Gross did that you missed when it was on the radio. That's a way I often use podcasts.

 

Anna Sale:

And then the other thing that you can do is it... you can both seek out podcasts that really deeply hit on something that is very personal and niche about you. Maybe it's something about something you've studied or a particular artist that you've loved, or a particular... maybe you love history and you listen to Throughline from NPR, which is a wonderful podcast that I listened to a lot about-

 

Wilma Consul:

With Ramtin and Rund, yeah.

 

Anna Sale:

Yes, yes. The other thing that's really wonderful about podcasting is you can listen in to people who are nothing like you. I listen to podcasts a lot that where I am very clearly not the intended or target audience, but it's like I'm eavesdropping and I'm learning new things, and I sort of see the world in many more dimensions than I would if I were only listening to things that were intended for people like me.

 

Anna Sale:

And the other thing that's great about it is that you can listen to them in whatever way suits you. You can take it on a walk with you. You can listen while you're making dinner. You can also, something I've been doing during the pandemic more, sometimes I just have to lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling and put on a podcast about something that's not the news, just to give me something to focus on, have a little company and distract myself.

 

 

Wilma Consul:

It's really not just intimate because you can have it whenever you want, wherever you want it, but also the way it's delivered. And I'm probably one of those converts and I'm over 50, right? And so for other people out there, I'm saying if you have Facebook, you can listen to podcasts. That's how I see it.

 

Anna Sale:

Even if you don't have Facebook, if you have a smartphone that it's very easy to figure out how to pull up podcasts. My mom has this trick where she will take someone's smartphone out of their hands and she will subscribe them to my show as she showing them how to use their podcast app. I love that.

 

Wilma Consul:

And I love what Jo Ann said, right, when the young people listen to her, it's like listen to it and send it to your parents. I love that.

 

Anna Sale:

Yeah. And I loved that too, because I think all of us are having very personal experiences with aging and all of us, if we are not ourselves over 60, we love someone who is, or has been. And it can be hard in these very close, personal, loving relationships to acknowledge and figure out how to talk about aging. I have loved the idea that this episode has maybe prompted some conversations that family members and loved ones maybe haven't had the words to have, just about what's it like for you to notice that you're in this new life phase. And I hope that that's bringing people a little bit closer.

 

Wilma Consul:

Can you give some tips to our listeners of maybe some episodes that might be of interest to them and also other podcasts out there?

 

Anna Sale:

Sure. Well, one thing we did as we were working on this project is we put together a website with all of the episodes that we've done over the years, or some of our very favorites that we've done with people who are older, and that's all at deathsexmoney.org/aging. And some episodes that really stick out, I had this incredible conversation with the actor, Ellen Burstyn sitting in her apartment, overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, and I just think it's one of the most incredible conversations that I've ever heard on tape, because of her openness and her... She's had a lot of struggle in her life and also a lot of joy. And she talked about all of it. It's just wonderful. There are also conversations... I interviewed the poet, Nikki Giovanni at a live event a couple of years ago.

 

Wilma Consul:

Yes.

 

Anna Sale:

And what a fun person to get to hear talk. I just loved it. In one of the early episodes of our show that we have, there's a weird story in my own personal life, where the former Senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, Republican Senator, and his wife, Ann, got mixed up in my love life through a very strange series of events.

 

Wilma Consul:

I saw that on the website.

 

Anna Sale:

Yeah. And what's really wonderful about that conversation is at that point, they had been married nearly 60 years. And they were very open and giving about... At the time I was sort of in this hard point in my love life, and they just talk to me about what it's like to be married for so long and the kinds of conversations and the kinds of counseling and when they needed help that they relied on as they were raising their family and being married to each other for so long. It's a really special episode. Those are some of my favorites that we have done.

 

Anna Sale:

I was thinking about other things that I would recommend that if you've never listened to a podcast that it's sort of like, "Wow, I didn't know you can do this." There's this series from… There's a design podcast called 99% Invisible, which is a podcast that's all about design and all the various ways it shows up in our lives. And they did a special series recently called Articles of Interest. And it's each episode is about a clothing item and its history and it's so interesting. It's like why have I never... I didn't know that about pockets. And it's just a really interesting, captivating series to listen to. Other podcasts I just love, I love On Being, which of course is also a radio show.

 

Wilma Consul:

Of course, yes.

 

Anna Sale:

There's another podcast that if you love music called Song Exploder, that's just a podcast-

 

Wilma Consul:

Yes.

 

Anna Sale:

... where musicians pick apart the various pieces of how they constructed a song and talk about how they made the creative decisions they did, so you'll hear the baseline, you'll hear the drum line, you'll hear the backup vocals and you'll hear the story behind them. And then at the very end, you just hear the pop song and the episodes are quite short. You can listen to it in a 15 minute car ride to the store, but it's a really satisfying experience.

 

Wilma Consul:

Anna Sale created and hosts Death, Sex, & Money, a podcast from New York's Public Radio WNYC studios. Thanks so much for speaking with us, Anna.

 

Anna Sale:

Thank you

 

Wilma Consul:

Anna Sale created and hosts Death, Sex & Money, a podcast from New York’s Public Radio WNYC Studios. 

 

Outro

 

You can join Anna Sale for a live, national call-in about aging on Wednesday, February 3rd, from 8 -10 pm Eastern. She and Jo Ann Allen, the host of Been There, Done That podcast, will get real with callers about getting older. Listen on your local public radio station or stream the show on Death, Sex & Money's Facebook or Twitter page.

 

And speaking of Jo Ann Allen, today, Thursday, January 28th, AARP will host a tele-town hall with her and mental health expert Dr. Andrea Bonier.

 

It’s going to be a how-to manual on exploring today’s digital world. They’ll discuss how online content can help you learn new skills, discover new communities and cope with the disconnection brought on by the pandemic.

 

Be sure to tune in tonight at 7 PM Eastern...just dial 855-274-9507. Again, that’s 855-274-9507,. Or visit aarp.org/coronavirus.

 

 

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Thanks to our news team.

Producers, Colby Nelson and Danny Alarcon.

Production Assistant Fernando Snellings.

Engineer, Julio Gonzalez.

Executive producer, Jason Young.

And of course my cohosts, Mike Ellison and Bob Edwards.

If you liked this episode, share it with a friend and become a subscriber on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or other apps. Be sure to rate our show as well.

For an AARP Take On Today, I'm Wilma Consul. Thanks for listening.

We've found so many ways to stay connected with friends new and old amidst the Pandemic. Anna Sale, host and creator of WNYC Studio's podcast "Death, Sex and Money," explores why podcasts are a great way to form meaningful connections with your loved ones and with new communities.

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