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A beginner's guide to podcasts for older people

10th March 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

What are podcasts? If you’re familiar with the radio, think of them as radio programmes that are available whenever you like. You don’t have to tune in at a particular time, the programmes can be accessed whenever you’re ready – as long as you have the device to listen to them.

It’s a great home entertainment option, and something many older people may not have discovered yet. With the familiarity of radio but with the modern benefit of pretty much instant accessibility, podcasts have a lot to offer the older generation.

In this guide we take you through how to get started with podcasts and provide some recommendations of good podcasts to get you going.

How to listen to a podcast

There are a number of ways to listen to podcasts, and they all involve using a device – desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

How to stream podcasts

‘Streaming’ is when you listen to a podcast through a website. You can do this on all of the devices named above. Some of the podcasts we have recommended below can be streamed from this very page, we’ll let you know where you can do this. For others, you can simply visit the websites we have linked to and listen from there. This may be the simpler of the two ways to listen to podcasts.

How to download podcasts

Downloading a podcast allows people to store the programme on their device. It allows people to listen to podcasts whilst on the move, even without an internet connection, so is suited to tablets and smartphones. That’s one of the beauties of podcasts – you can listen to them anywhere, whether you’re at home relaxing in a rise and recline chair or on the bus.

You can download podcasts via an app; the app needs to be downloaded to your device. Once you have downloaded and opened up the app, you can then search for any podcast you like and listen from there. Which app you should download depends on your device:

  • Apple devices (iPhones, iPads) have a built-in Podcasts app
  • The Stitcher app is good for Android devices – for instance smartphones and tablets by Samsung, Sony, Alcatel and Huawei use Android.

If you decide that you like a podcast series, you can also ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Favourite’ podcasts that you’re interested in. Any new podcasts will then be downloaded automatically to your device.

This how-to video by popular podcast Serial is very useful and features a lovely lady who is “on the dark side of 85”!

Need some extra help? If the above is gobbledegook to you and you’d like some technical advice, get help from a friend or family member, or contact Digital Unite, who specialise in helping to get people online. You can find one of their tutors in your area by calling 03333 442264. You can also check out Age UK’s technology and internet guidance article.

Top podcasts to listen to

So you’re well on your way to getting stuck into podcasts – great! There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and plenty of good podcasts to get started with. We’ve highlighted some of the best there are so you get stuck into the greats, and also tried to show you just how much variety there is in the world of podcasting.

We have included a website address for all – just click on the link and you will be taken to their list of episodes where you will be able to stream them. Some you can listen to right now on this page, we’ll indicate where.

Fascinating podcasts


BBC

If you have favourite radio shows and would like to be able to listen to them whenever you like, the BBC is likely to be a good place to start.

To listen

Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts

From the link above you can click to find podcasts sorted by radio station (Radio 2, Radio 4, Local Radio etc.) or genre (Drama, Comedy, Factual etc.). From there you can click on an episode, and then click on the Play button.

You can also click the Download button, which will store the programme on your device. You can then click to open it and it will start playing.


Serial

Serial is a wonderful podcast that can be credited for introducing podcasts to a wider audience. In Season 1, host Sarah Koenig delves into an old case where Adnan Syed was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Adnan maintains he is innocent, but is he? Sarah and her team sort through thousands of documents, trial testimonies and police investigations to find answers.

In Season 2, Sarah and the team cover the ongoing story of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl. He was held prisoner by the Taliban from 2009 until 2014 after walking off his U.S. outpost and getting captured. Was it on purpose? What was he doing?

To listen

Listen to all episodes from Season 1 here: https://serialpodcast.org/season-one#episodes

Listen to all episodes from Season 2 here: https://serialpodcast.org/#episodes

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


The Black Tapes

You just can’t place this podcast – it’s mysterious, is it fact or fiction? Well it is technically fiction, but the style of it will mean you have to keep reminding yourself of that fact. This serialised docudrama follows one journalist’s search for truth amongst the mystery of paranormal activity – ghosts, spirits, demons, and the mysterious past of one Dr. Richard Strand.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to the first episode.

Listen to all the podcasts here: http://theblacktapespodcast.com/

To hear more, click on the link above to see all episodes, they are in reverse chronological order. You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


The Night Time Podcast

The Night Time Podcast investigates mysteries, crime and the paranormal with a focus on Atlantic Canada. The show commonly features interviews with relevant experts and first hand witnesses, with story information backed by historical news articles and documents that host Jordan Bonaparte obtains when researching the various topics. It’s just one guy in his basement at his computer – but the quality of the podcast speaks for itself given that The Night Time Podcast has been ranked among the top 20 most downloaded podcasts in Canada, where Jordan lives.

Jordan, on why he started this podcast: “I've had a lifelong obsession with mysteries and throughout my life spent lots of time reading and investigating various topics.

“In particular I recommend episodes 1 and 4 – a two-part series investigating my grandparents’ UFO sighting, which includes interviews with my 92-year-old granddad and 89-year-old grandmother.”

To listen

Listen to all the podcasts here:  http://www.nighttimepodcast.com/episodes

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


Radio Diaries

Since 1996, Radio Diaries has been telling extraordinary stories of ordinary life. They have collaborated with people from all walks of life, and record their stories into a fascinating collection of true tales – organised into Diaries, Portraits or Histories. ‘The Last Place’ is one of their recent episodes, documenting life inside an American retirement home.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘The Last Place’.

Listen to the Diary podcasts here: http://www.radiodiaries.org/category/stories/diaries/

Listen to the Portraits podcasts here: http://www.radiodiaries.org/category/stories/portraits/

Listen to the Histories podcasts here: http://www.radiodiaries.org/category/stories/histories/

To listen to more episodes, click on the links above to see episodes organised by Diary, Portrait or History. You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


Thinking Sideways Podcast

The people who contribute towards this podcast have made it their mission to “investigate things we simply don’t have the answers to”. Mysteries range from murders to disappearances, aeroplanes to literary greats. Beloved crime fiction author Agatha Christie famously disappeared for 11 days in December 1926, and this mystery gets the Thinking Sideways treatment in ‘Agatha Christie’s Disappearance’.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Agatha Christie’s Disappearance’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://thinkingsidewayspodcast.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


Lore Podcast

This award-winning podcast tells true life scary stories. It explores the creatures, people and places that exist in not just our wildest nightmares, but real life too. Not for the fainthearted, but a very entertaining show!

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.lorepodcast.com/episodes (they are in reverse chronological order)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


The Myths and Legends Podcast

Jason Weiser told us his aim for The Myths and Legends Podcast: “With this podcast I'm trying to make folklore from all around the world accessible for everyone. There are many amazing stories buried in dry texts from the ancient world and Middle Ages. I'm seeking to bring them out of the past and breathe new life into them.”

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.mythpodcast.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


Wooden Overcoats

This unique sitcom presents the story of Rudyard Funn, who runs his family’s failing funeral parlour on the overlooked Channel Island of Piffling. But then a new undertaker comes along who proves to be an immediate sensation – this being the dashing Eric Chapman. How will this rivalry play out?

Wooden Overcoats says: “A lot of podcasting today focuses on single voice true storytelling and interviews, driven by American radio listening habits. In the UK, we're used to the idea of the radio play and sitcom and there's not a lot of people doing that in podcasting. Anyone who's a fan of Steptoe and Son, The Navy Lark, The Goon Show, Cabin Pressure, Hitchhiker's Guide and so on will enjoy Wooden Overcoats, and there are plenty of familiar voices including Andy Hamilton, Julia Deakin and Belinda Lang.”

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.woodenovercoats.com/episodes/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts and on the Stitcher app.


Sleep With Me Podcast

This podcast is designed to be boring, and in doing so it helps you get to sleep – you’re distracted enough from your thoughts to stop them running around your head, and bored enough for your attention not to be ‘held’. It’s a great idea!

In Drew Ackerman’s own words: “As you listen you will find yourself distracted from your worries and drifting off into dreamland, due to the fact the story gets a little bit more boring with each passing minute.

“This podcast is a little weird, a bit silly and a tad offensive – so beware.”

It is impossible to really describe what happens in each podcast, for instance in ‘Worcestershire and Cheddar Bacon Soup | Real Time Recipes’ it’s a full 14 minutes before he actually gets into the episode. Even so, it is designed to help you get to sleep and does so very well.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Worcestershire and Cheddar Bacon Soup | Real Time Recipes’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.sleepwithmepodcast.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


Ghostpod

This podcast is the result of a group of friends’ passion for real ghost stories. If you’re fascinated by paranormal or ghostly encounters, the team at Ghostpod tell a great story and they tell it well.

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.ghostpod.co.uk/preview.html (once you’ve clicked on the episode, click on the ‘POD and circle’ symbol or Direct download link to listen)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


ARRVLS

This fascinating podcast tells the stories of unexpected moments in the lives of everyday people with a focus on migration, transformation and change. These are real life stories of people who have been on a journey, whether physically, emotionally or something else.

On the recent podcast ‘Movements’ it said: “Do you know that feeling you get when you’re about to leave a place? That clarity? Like you’re seeing it all for the first time. That all the sounds and sights that blended into the background of your life before, are now powerful and in your face?”

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.arrvls.com/arrvls-podcast/ (in reverse chronological order)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and on the Stitcher app.


Factual podcasts

If you’re looking for interesting podcasts, look no further than this list of factual, educational podcasts.


James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour

What is James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour? They say: "If you've ever wondered ‘why’, then this is the hour for you. Sometimes simple, sometimes intelligent, but almost always entertaining, probably the best hour of radio you could ever download!”

To listen

You can download the most recent episode only from here: http://www.lbc.co.uk/james-obriens-mystery-hour-podcast---free-54729

You can find more episodes to listen to here: http://lbc.audioagain.com/presenters/6-james-obrien/368-the-mystery-hour-free

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


The Allusionist

Helen Zaltzman explores the English language in this fascinating series about language and etymology. She has worked on numerous podcasts, but we think this one is pretty unique. In one of our favourites, ‘Crosswords’, she talks to crossword setter John Feetenby about how they’re made and how to solve them.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Crosswords’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.theallusionist.org/hear-the-allusionist/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


The Generation Why Podcast

Two friends, Aaron and Justin, discuss theories and share their opinions on unsolved murders, controversies, mysteries, conspiracies & true crime. They delve into the ‘why’ of all these to find the facts behind these mysteries.

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://thegenerationwhypodcast.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and with the Stitcher app.


Philosophy Bites

Have you ever wondered about the greater questions of life, and not known where to start? Philosophy is broken down into bite-sized topics in this great series by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton. Organised by topic, you can listen to their podcasts at your leisure – such topics include ethics, art, great thinkers, religion and existence.

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://philosophybites.com/340-bites-interviews-arranged-by-theme.html (organised by theme)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


Nature Podcast

Every week, the Nature Podcast covers something new, exciting, or interesting in the realm of science. Hosted by Kerri Smith and Adam Levy, who are supported by a team of reporters from around the world, you can bet that these podcasts are as well researched as they are fascinating.

In one of their hugely topical podcasts they delve into the topic of gravitational waves, which are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time and were first theorised by Albert Einstein in 1916, only to be confirmed in 2016.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Gravitational Waves’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/archive.html

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and the Stitcher app.


Nature PastCast

If you like the style of the Nature Podcast but are more interested in history, the Nature PastCast could be for you. This science history mini-series ran alongside the main show a year or so ago, so there aren’t regular updates, but it is still worth a listen.

In ‘February 1925: The Man-Ape of South Africa’ a palaeontologist came across a fossil of an early ape-like relative of humans. But were the public accepting of this discovery?

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘February 1925: The Man-Ape of South Africa’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/pastcast/


Criminal

Criminal tells the stories of crime – from the people who have done wrong, to the people who have been wronged, as well as the people caught in the middle. 

In ‘Episode 35: Pen & Paper’ Courtroom sketch artist Andy Austin delivers some fascinating insight into the American courtroom and this unique application of the art of drawing. Take a look at some of her sketches here.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Pen & Paper’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://thisiscriminal.com/category/uncategorized/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and the Stitcher app.


Anxious Machine

This podcast originally came from the idea of showing how technology impacts our everyday lives, but now it has grown to cover so much more, exploring what humans have made, and how we struggle with this. From birth certificates to chemotherapy, creator Rob McGinley Myers has lots to talk about – we have created a lot, and have a lot to struggle with.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Pen & Paper’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.anxiousmachine.com/podcast

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


Brain Science Podcast

Ginger Campbell, MD, has created this series from her experience as an emergency physician and from her long-standing interest in mind-body medicine, the brain, and consciousness. The Brain Science Podcast is already very popular with older listeners, and as of December 2015 the podcast has had over 7.5 million downloads.

In ‘Exercise and the Brain’ she edits an interview from 2008 with Dr. John Ratey, author of "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain." He discusses the effects of exercise on our brains, and how it all works.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to listen to ‘Exercise and the Brain’.

Listen to all episodes here: http://brainsciencepodcast.com/episodes-page (some episodes need to be purchased, you can pay for individual episodes or become a subscriber)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and the Stitcher app.


The Egyptian History Podcast

The Ancient Egyptians were fascinating people, and no one knows this more than Dominic Perry, creator of The Egyptian History Podcast. He covers the history of this magnificent land “from its own eyes: beginning with the moment of Creation by the sun god Re. We meet kings, queens, scribes, farmers, soldiers, mothers, explorers, builders, potters and brewers.”

The podcast has a fantastic archive to work through, and will hopefully be back with new episodes in April 2016.

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://egyptianhistory.libsyn.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


TateShots

Art fans will find enjoyable listening/viewing with TateShots, the weekly short videos from Tate. The podcasts focus on modern and contemporary art at Tate and, as an art-related podcast, moves away from the purely audio to include some video.

To listen

You can click the Play button below to watch ‘TateShots: Kusama’s Obliteration Room’.

A number of TateShots are also available on their very popular YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/tate/videos

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app.


Funny podcasts

There are plenty of comedy radio shows, and so there are some great comedy podcasts too. We’re hoping to grow this list in the future.


About 30 minutes, never more than 45

Stand-up comedian Justin Moorhouse has delved into the realm of podcasting, and the world was gifted a healthy dose of hilarity and northern charm. In About 30 minutes, never more than 45, he presents recordings from his week – the places he goes, the people he meets – but squished down to a manageable 30 minutes and never more than 45.

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://justinmoorhouse.libsyn.com/

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts.


The Reduced Shakespeare Company

Consistently named one of the top Theatre podcasts on iTunes in both the UK and the US, and named by The Telegraph as one of the Best Comedy Podcasts, The Reduced Shakespeare Company is fascinating and funny in equal measure. Because of their coverage of all things Shakespearean, it’s also one of the top Shakespeare podcasts. If you have an interest in theatre and/or Shakespeare, this is the podcast for you.

“We cover theatre, comedy, and Shakespeare; we talk to actors like Brian Dennehy, Olivia Williams, and Olivier-award winner Adrian Scarborough; authors like Jasper Fforde and Christopher Moore; and playwrights, directors, designers, broadcasters, and theatre folk of all kinds.”

To listen

Listen to all episodes here: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/category/podcasts/ (they are in reverse chronological order)

You can also subscribe on Apple’s Podcasts app and the Stitcher app.


Image Credit: Patrick Breitenbach (flickr.com)