Best Audiobooks and Podcasts for Older Adults

Reading continues to be one of America’s favorite pastimes, especially for older adults. In a survey by Pew Research Center, 77 percent of people aged 50 to 64 years said they enjoyed a book in the previous year, and 70 percent of respondents aged 65 and older had enjoyed a book in that time. The typical 65+ year old person reads an average of four books each year.

Traditional books featuring printed words on paper are still the most popular. In the Pew survey, 71 percent of the people aged 50 to 64 reported reading a printed book within the past year and 66 percent of respondents 65 and older had read a book in print.

Unfortunately, reading can be difficult for many older adults. Age-related health issues can make it difficult to read traditional printed books. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and other age-related vision problems can blur printed words. Older adults with arthritis make find it difficult to hold a book or turn pages.

Audiobooks help older adults enjoy books without the hassle of reading printed text.

Audiobooks are growing in popularity. In fact, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing industry, according to Good e-Reader. In their 2017 report, the Audiobook Publishers Association noted a 33.9 percent increase in the number of audiobooks published over the previous year.

People like audiobooks for a variety of reasons. One person may enjoy doing other things, such as exercising or cooking, while listening to an audiobook. Another person may prefer audiobooks because they can listen from anywhere, from the comfort of their favorite easy chair or on a walking path. Almost everyone enjoys the experience of having someone read to him or her.

A study published in the medical journal Neurology found people who engage in stimulating behavior, such as reading, throughout their lives showed slower rates of mental decline. Reading challenges the brain, and research shows these challenges can improve the analytical and reasoning needed to solve problems. One study shows that people who engage in mentally intense hobbies, such as reading, from ages 20 through 60 are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting lost in a book is a wonderful distraction, and can provide a welcome diversion from stress, boredom or loneliness. Books can also connect older adults to the outside world around them.

Listening to audiobooks is easy and inexpensive – just download an audiobook to a computer, tablet, MP3 player or cell phone. Listeners can download audiobooks from a number of sites, including Amazon’s Audible, hoopla, OverDrive and audiobooks.com.

Best Audiobooks for Seniors

Go Set a Watchman

Reese Witherspoon narrates this companion to Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Not discovered until 2014, Go Set a Watchman features many of the same characters as Mockingbird.

The Price of Valor

The Price of Valor: The Life of Audie Murphy, America’s Most Decorated Hero of World War II by David A. Smith is perfect for those who survived the struggles and triumphs of World War II, or for anyone who appreciates the trials and tribulations of those times. At just 17, Audie Murphy doctored his birth certificate so he could join the U.S. Army. When he was 19, Murphy found his company surrounded by the enemy. The young man ordered his troops to retreat to safety, grabbed a machine gun and climbed on top of a tank. Alone, the young man fought for more than an hour and turned back the German Army to change the course of the war.

Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie’s classic adventure Murder on the Orient Express is captivating for anyone who likes murder mysteries or thrillers.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter reveals the life of Rosemary Kennedy, secreted far from the spotlight of her famous family. The book details her family’s decisions to institutionalize and eventually lobotomize their first-born daughter when she was in her early 20s.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection

In This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, Carol Burnett recalls her audience with stories, such as the infamous scene where she glided down the stairs in her curtain-rod dress in the show’s spoof of “Gone with the Wind.”

Senior wearing headphones listening to audiobook

In addition to enjoying audiobooks, many older adults are now turning to podcasts, which are digital video files that people can download from the internet to their computer or mobile device. Podcasts often come in series, just as a television show is made up of a whole series of episodes.

“Podcast” is a mash-up of two words: “pod,” which is an abbreviation of Apple’s iPod, and “cast” for broadcast. While the original name alludes to the iPod, listeners can play podcasts on any computer, smart phone or tablet.

Podcasts are increasingly popular. According to statistics presented by Pew Research Center 44 percent of Americans 12 and older had listened to at least one podcast in their lifetimes by 2018, up from only 18 percent in 2008. Today, about 19 percent of people 55 and older enjoy podcasts.

Podcasts are popular because they are entertaining, informative and engaging. They inspire users to explore new ideas and interests, escape from the mundane, and stay educated and informed. Podcasts are a great alternative to television or radio for filling downtime. The stimulation from listening to podcasts is also typically good for the brain.

Best Podcasts for Older Adults

Lux Radio Theatre

Lux Radio Theatre is a great way to get your feet wet in the vast world of podcasts. Lux Radio Theatre was a hit radio show that ran from 1934 to 1955, and featured adaptations of hit Broadway plays. John Wayne, Judy Garland and other iconic figures of the time starred on the shows.

TED Talks

TED Talks are fascinating videos featuring expert speakers who talk about a wide range of subjects, including education, science, creativity, business and technology. Every weekday, TED Talks converts their most recent video talks into audio podcast format so listeners can hear inspiring ideas on nearly every subject imaginable.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Stuff You Missed in History Class is an aptly named podcast that fills in the gaps left behind by most general education classes. Listeners can learn about obscure royalty, shipwrecks, culinary history, medical history and more.

This American Life

Hosted by Ira Glass, This American Life is an iconic human interest and journalism podcast by NPR radio. More than 2.5 million people download each episode as a podcast. Glass and his team experiment with a wide variety of ideas, such as taping for 24 hours straight in an all-night restaurant, exploring the recent history of Michael Brown’s high school in Ferguson, Missouri, and even explaining the 2008 economic collapse. There are currently more than 600 episodes available for free download.

Freakanomics Radio

Freakanomics Radio helps listeners understand basic economic principles and learn how economics fit into everyday life. Episode titles include “How Sports Became Us,” “How Does Creativity Happen” and “Who Decides How Much a Life is Worth?”

Good Job, Brain!

Good Job, Brain is an interactive quiz show that features random, offbeat trivia facts that test the brain on a wide range of interesting topics. Available free from iTunes, the podcasts are for people who love trivia.

Guided Meditations

Guided Meditations helps listeners cope with life’s stresses through meditation. Creator and host of the podcasts, psychotherapist Tara Brach, leads listeners through a number of different meditations, such as basic meditations and open awareness meditations. The podcasts are brief, usually lasting between 9 and 25 minutes, but offer timeless and essential wisdom.

Planet Money

Planet Money is more fun than it sounds – this podcast discusses the everyday world of economics happening all around us. Podcast episodes talk about recent booms in small towns across the United States, for example, and the costs of extreme weather conditions.

You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This podcast delves into the delicious world of Hollywood’s first century. Listen to episodes such as “From Pin-up to Pariah,” a 33-minute podcast describing how Raquel Welch went from bombshell in a fur bikini to single mother of two, trapped in an oppressive studio system.

Forest Hill is a great place to enjoy audiobooks and podcasts. Set in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula, Forest Hill’s location offers breathtaking views of the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, unique architectural features, and beautiful landscaping residents can admire while listening to digital downloads, such as podcasts and audiobooks. Residents of Forest Hill can listen to podcasts and audiobooks while basking in the sunroom/reading room, relaxing in the traditional fireside lounge, strolling around the resident garden areas or sitting in the library. Contact us today to schedule a tour.