There is something about the audio medium: it sweeps you away, creating an immersive escape to other worlds and intriguing ideas. That’s why we think podcasts and audiobooks are such a wonderful way to keep our minds busy and our spirits lifted, as we work together to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus by self-isolating at home. Read on for some of our favourites.
Podcasts we love and why
Most podcasts are free and easy to access on your computer or mobile device. You can use a listening app such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, or simply visit the podcast’s webpage and click the links to stream. Here is a selection we like for older adults, to get you started on your listening adventure:
Self-improvement day by day: Life Habits Mentoring (free on website and all podcast apps)
In Life Habits Mentoring, host Karel Vredenburg teaches the listener how to banish bad habits and form good ones, incorporating them smoothly into a daily routine. Topics include “Fixing Unhelpful Thinking Habits,” “Developing Empathy,” “Optimizing Happiness,” and many more.
Releasing hidden potential: Unlocking Us with Brené Brown (free on website and all podcast apps)
In Unlocking Us, self-help guru and New York Times bestseller Brené Brown explores ideas, stories, experiences, books, films, and music that reflect the universal experiences of being human. Essential listening for those seeking meaning and purpose through kindness, empathy, and empowerment.
Meditation and relaxation: Headspace (free with a 10-day trial – only available through the website)
If you’ve never meditated but would like to try, now is a great time to experiment with this stress-relieving practice. Headspace offers a great primer on how, when and why to meditate. Founder and narrator Andy Puddicombe narrates, offering simple directions that are easy to follow. There are even two-minute meditations you can do while brushing your teeth or making dinner.
The love of language: The Allusionist (free on website and all podcast apps)
If you’re a word buff who loves to learn about the origins of language – from technical terms and slang to popular idioms – The Allusionist is the podcast for you. Host Helen Zaltzman digs in monthly, with the goal of demystifying the words we speak each day.
A Stroll Down Hollywood’s Memory Lane: You Must Remember This (free on website and all podcast apps)
You Must Remember This takes listeners back to the Hollywood of yesteryear, with secret tales and forgotten tidbits about screen luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, and Clint Eastwood. A lovely bit of nostalgia for those who covet the “good old days” of cinema, whenever that may be for you.
Tales of Lives Well-Lived: Two Cups of Tea (free on website and all podcast apps)
Two Cups of Tea is a long-form interview broadcast from British journalist Chris Heath. Heath sits down with an older adult each episode, to chat in-depth about his or her life story. The tales cover heartfelt memories of childhood and friendship to more exotic experiences, like surviving Hungary’s Nazi regime and being raised by indigenous Mayans.
Meditation Toward Inner Peace: The Chopra Center (free on website)
Based on the teachings of famed alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, The Chopra Center is a series of guided meditations to help you achieve a calm and peaceful state. Sessions range from five minutes to one hour each, aiming to help listeners balance emotions, cope with physical and psychological distress, and “promote the peace of the present moment.”
Audiobooks that capture our imagination
The world of audiobooks is as vast as all the world’s libraries put together. If there is a great book you’ve been meaning to read, chances are you can find it out there in audio form. You can download audiobooks to your computer, or listen using an app like Audible. Some are available free, while others can be purchased individually or via a monthly membership.
This selection stands out not only for excellent writing but also for top-notch narration (and all are free with a 30-day Audible trial). We think these books will appeal to older adults, but also listeners of all ages:
A ripping good yarn: Murder on the Orient Express
This Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot thriller about a murder aboard a moving train never goes out of style. But narrator and performer Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame, imbues fresh spirit and incredible character acting – which makes for a rollicking good listen.
History with a side of comedy: A Short History of Nearly Everything
Narrated by the author himself, this Bill Bryson bestseller represents his quest to “find out everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us.” Bryson aims to tackle normally humdrum scientific topics and make them engaging for the average person. Mission accomplished!
A little-known chapter of Canadian WWII history: Ortona
Ortona recounts Canada’s contribution to the Allied war effort in Italy, taking place over one harrowing and heroic week in December 1943. Canadian military historian and novelist Mark Zuehlke based his account of the battle on a wide variety of historical sources, including interviews with soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
An epic tale of friendship: The Kite Runner
This modern masterpiece of a novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini takes place in Afghanistan, carrying the listener on a journey through time, from the final days of the country’s monarchy to the present day. The author recounts a beautiful story of friendship between two boys against a rich historical and cultural backdrop.
Detective fiction read with panache: Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection
Ever since he first appeared in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has captivated millions around the world. In this compendium, writer, broadcaster and lifelong Conan Doyle fan Stephen Fry flawlessly narrates all four novels and five short-story collections. At a grand total of nearly 72 hours, including introductions and essays by Fry, this one is guaranteed to keep you absorbed.
Laughs mingled with travel inspiration: Me Talk Pretty One Day
This 2000 essay collection made David Sedaris a household name, and it’s every bit as good in audio format – or possibly better, because it’s narrated by Sedaris himself in his trademark cheeky style. From tales of his childhood in New York to his adventures in France and learning the French language, Sedaris will have you in tears as well as stitches.
A new Canadian Classic: A Complicated Kindness
This 2004 novel by Miriam Toews quickly joined the pantheon of Great Canadian literature, winning the Governor General’s Award. Chronicling the life of a young woman growing up in a restrictive Mennonite community in rural Manitoba, it’s read expressively by the author herself. A tough one to put down!
Looking for more great books in audio format? We suggest heading over to Audible Stories. For a limited time, the service has made hundreds of titles available free, to keep the home-bound entertained during the coronavirus pandemic. Project Gutenberg also has a huge library of free audiobooks; some human-read and some automatically generated by the computer. For further recommendations, check out this roundup of the best audiobooks for the elderly and blind.
As an Independent Living Residence for seniors in British Columbia, PARC is committed to supporting older adults and other vulnerable populations, including our residents, families, and friends, during this challenging time. We’ve been pulling together articles and resources to help: please visit our COVID-19 resources page to stay up to date on the latest developments.