How to be old—we're all learning

How to listen to podcasts: tips for 55+

What? You already know how to listen to a podcast? Then go read something else. But if you’re over 55 years old it’s highly unlikely that you listen to podcasts, because only about 5–6% of baby boomers have caught the podcast bug.

My hunch is that around 50% of my readers are 50 or older. After all, this blog is about learning how to be old. Therefore, statistically, the odds are that you personally have never listened to a podcast.

Why would you? After all, you already know what you like and podcasts sound like a new-fangled high-tech craze that you can live without—right?

Here’s why I’m presuming to give you a quick introduction to the world of podcasts.

  1. Pleasure. I think you’ll enjoy listening to podcasts very much, once you get the hang of it.
  2. Like radio. Podcasts are like radio programmes on demand, and you like radio at certain times, don’t you?
  3. Well-established. Podcasts have been around since 2004 and they’re now very easy to manage.
  4. Focus. You are completely in control of your choices in a quiet, calm, user-friendly environment. It’s nothing like Facebook. A podcast has even fewer distractions than a personal blog. Most are virtually ad-free.
  5. Novelty. To keep our brains and minds in working order, we are advised to keep trying completely new things.
  6. Self-interest. I’ve started an adorable podcast called How To Be Old and I’d like you to give it a proper try.

Tip 1. Listen as you would to a radio programme

Not at your desk, staring at a screen. You don’t need your eyes to listen to a podcast. Instead, use them as background while you cook or commute or drift off to sleep.

Listening to a podcast while driving. Photo Nate robert CC BY 2.0

Tip 2. Listen on your mobile phone

Of course you can listen on a computer or tablet, but smartphones are the most popular device because they are so … mobile! It’s so easy to flick on a podcast while you’re cooking or driving or gardening or lying in bed, because our phones can be close at hand. No need for headphones unless (for example) you’re out walking or at the gym or on public transport.

Doing the dishes: good time to listen to a podcast. Photo Orr Hiltch CC BY-NC 2.0

Tip 3. Subscribe to podcasts on an app such as Apple podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher

I think you’ll find this infinitely more satisfying than trying to follow a podcast on a website. Each time you open your favourite podcast app, you’ll see your chosen podcasts listed, you’ll  easily see which ones have new episodes and easily find the one you want.

3 popular phone apps for listening to podcasts. Pick one and open it.

  1. On your phone, download a podcast app such as Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. Open it.
  2. Search for How To Be Old*
  3. Subscribe (you can unsubscribe with one click any time).
  4. And listen.
  5. Next time you want to listen, just open your podcast app. It’s that easy.

*or No Such Thing As A Fish, Freakonomics, The Allusionist, This Week In Tech, Sleep and Relax ASMR, Science Vs., The Daily, Judge John Hodgman, Everything is Alive — or any podcast recommended by a friend. This is your starter podcast. Be patient: you don’t like every book in the world either. You may find a podcast producer (e.g. Maximum Fun, BBC, NPR) whose style you like.

Tip 4. Play with the app

See what happens when you fiddle with the controls. Louder, softer, faster, slower, backwards or forwards 15 seconds… Swipe up, swipe down. Look in your Library. Browse for other suggestions. Search for something specific. It’s easy and fun and you can’t break it, I promise. (If you’d like detailed instructions, google videos on “how to use Apple Podcasts (or the app you’re using)”.

View in Apple Podcasts

Tip 5. Use podcasts for entertainment, education, news or a sleep aid

That’s what most people do. You’ll probably try quite a few and settle on 4–7 favourites. And you’ll listen your way, in total control. Give podcasts a good try for a few weeks and see what pleasures come your way.