As we grow older, staying connected, mentally active, and engaged becomes increasingly essential. One of the most incredible gifts of the modern communication age is the wide range of options for personal enrichment and connection. A 2022 study found that listening to podcasts can satisfy our basic psychological need for social connection, competence, relatedness, and autonomy. In older adults, loneliness and social isolation pose serious health issues and put them at risk for dementia. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reports that nearly one-fourth of seniors aged 65 and older are socially isolated due to loss of family or friends and chronic illness. It’s estimated that loneliness and isolation affect more than 8 million older adults, an epidemic that prompted AARP to launch its Connect2Affect platform to drive awareness and offer solutions.
How Does Listening to a Podcast Help a Senior Who is Feeling Lonely?
What exactly is a podcast? Think of this growing media format as a “radio on demand” audio program that can be listened to on your own time, at your own pace and on any type of topic – from storytelling to news to educational lifelong learning. For seniors, podcasts can serve as a powerful tool to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, and according to Psychology Today, promote active aging. Known for their intimacy, podcasts provide the listener with a recognizable human voice that can seem like having company over – a true comfort that’s also convenient. Here’s a short list of senior benefits that can be had from listening to podcasts:
A Source of Connection
Hearing a human voice discussing a topic of interest can instill a sense of connection, even if one is alone at home. It’s akin to having a conversation with a knowledgeable friend.
Just like reading a book or watching a documentary, podcasts stimulate the mind. They introduce fresh ideas, stories, and perspectives that can spark thought and reflection.
Many podcasts rely on narratives or episodes that build upon each other. Following these storylines or series can aid memory retention and cognitive engagement.
For seniors with vision issues or those who might find it hard to hold a book, podcasts offer a great alternative. They can be easily accessed through a phone or computer, with the volume adjusted to the listener’s preference.
Variety of Content
There’s a podcast out there for every interest, be it history, science, storytelling, or even comedy. This vast range allows seniors to choose content that resonates with them, ensuring they remain engaged and entertained.
A Few Senior-Friendly Podcast Recommendations
If you’re wondering where to start, think about topics you’d like to learn more about or get caught up on. Or you can do an online search for “top podcasts” or “podcasts for seniors.” Many smartphones and tablets already come with a podcast app that you can click on to find programs that might interest you. If yours doesn’t, simply go to the Play Store (for Android) or App Store (for Apple) to download the podcast app of your choice. Here are a few senior-friendly podcasts that many older adults might enjoy:
Today’s Tips from AARP: With a new theme for each episode, Today’s Tips guides listeners in taking actionable steps for living a positive and healthy life. Among with health and wellness, topics covered include technology, financial planning, caregiving, fraud, and more.
The Moth: Real people share real stories from their lives, recorded live. The topics range from funny to poignant, and there’s always a lesson or reflection at the heart of each tale.
Stuff You Missed in History Class: Dive into the lesser-known corners of history. This podcast covers events, figures, and stories that your history class might have overlooked.
Brains On!: While it’s a science podcast for kids, its engaging approach to explaining how the world works can be delightful for listeners of all ages.
Old Time Radio Dramas>: Relive the golden age of radio with classic radio dramas, mysteries, and comedies.
How Can I Help? With Dr. Gail Saltz: The doctor is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and best-selling author who on Fridays answers listeners’ questions and offers guidance on topics ranging from anxiety, relationships, dealing with tough times, and much more.
Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: NPR’s weekly news quiz show. It’s fun, it’s informative, and it might just make you laugh out loud.
The Benefits of Podcasts for Boosting Senior Mental Health and Combatting Senior Loneliness
Besides combatting senior loneliness, listening to podcasts has been shown to boost cognitive function and help lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Absorbing the ideas, entertainment, information, and viewpoints presented in podcasts while listening stimulates the brain, essentially giving seniors a healthy mental workout. Podcasts are more than just a trend; they’re a testament to the power of voice, story, and connection for listeners of any age but particularly beneficial for older adults or seniors who may be feeling isolated or left out.
“The Benefits of Podcasts for Boosting Senior Mental Health,” written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.