Now Hear This

I love to feel connected and informed—both, keys to successful aging. I no longer get a newspaper and don’t watch much television. I live between New York City and Philadelphia, where there’s no shortage of media outlets, but I get virtually all of my news from the radio. I know—old school. The radio is on in my kitchen, home office and car, not for music but to stay on top of what’s happening in the world and for infotainment. I’m sort of an NPR junkie. The hosts’ voices are as familiar to me as my family’s.

Not too long ago, I lamented to a friend that I had missed half a segment that I found so interesting. “Don’t you listen to podcasts?” she asked. And just like that, a whole world opened to me and I joined the 57 million Americans who listen to podcasts.

Think of podcasts as a library of radio and audio programs you put on your cell phone or computer to listen to at your convenience. Once downloaded, no need for wi-fi. Some are as short as five minutes; others go for hours. You may have heard of the hit program Serial, which was formatted like a docudrama with a new episode once a week for several weeks. (My personal preference is for something more quickly digested.)

Most podcasts are free. There’s no spam and few, if any, commercials. To find a podcast, you can download an app (for example, iTunes, Swell Radio or Stitcher, among many), look on your favorite radio station’s website or google a topic to see what’s out there. You’re going to be astounded at what you find.

NPR’s offerings on aging are very interesting, from an inspiring story on a 105-year-old cyclist to the latest in health or technology for elders, and more. But podcasts aren’t all archived radio shows; some estimate there are a quarter million different ones from which to choose. There are podcasts from names you know and trust, like Jane Gross and AARP. Want variety and topics to add dimension to your conversations? You can pick one from a list promising to make you smarter—or sound smarter, anyway. I like history, particularly if it’s offbeat, so I was happy to find Stuff You Missed in History Class. This podcast is searchable by topic or time period. The history of beer, anyone?

I have been enjoying the portability, variety and depth of the programs I listen to, and I never worry about being caught somewhere with nothing to read. A few swipes on my cell phone or tablet and I have hours’ worth of listening on every subject that interests me. No more sitting in the driveway with the radio on to hear the program in its entirety.