Australians are keen radio listeners. In fact, we have some of the largest listening audiences in the world. For older adults, this is especially true. People aged 55 years or older typically spend 13 hours listening to community radio per week (Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, 2019), and almost 30% of all radio listeners are in this older demographic. Here we discuss the benefits of radio for older adults.
What is it about the medium of radio that continues to be so compelling for older Australians, and why are they continuing to tune in? There’s a number of factors at play here.
With the first commercial radio broadcast in Australia in 1923, radio soon became a popular source of information, music and other entertainment. For people now aged in their 70s, 80s, 90s and older, family life for many included gathering around the wireless to enjoy radio dramas, hear the latest music, listen to the cricket and the races, follow quiz shows and keep up to date with important news. Television only came to Australia in 1956, and so radio is a very familiar medium for this older demographic. The benefits of radio for older adults is huge and can contribute to older Australians well-being.
A recent study that looked at the radio listening habits of 25 Australian residents aged 66-87 found that for these older Australians, the radio has been and continues to be, an important part of their lives. Most people in this study said they listened every day and for a variety of reasons. But music and entertainment, as well as news and information were key drivers. (Krause, 2020)
Interestingly, this same study found that radio listening provided benefits to older adults in relation to increased well-being. Many said their mood was lifted by listening to their favourite programs, they felt less depressed and less lonely.
Many developed bonds with the radio announcers, and would tune in specifically because they could relate to their manner, tone and approach. These older listeners also said they enjoyed “the company”, felt less socially isolated, and more connected with the broader community. So the content of the broadcast, as well as the relatability of the announcer are both crucial elements.
Radio broadcasting and music have always gone hand-in-hand. In the days before Spotify and YouTube, the radio was where we heard the latest hits, and sang along to our favourite songs. It still plays a prominent role in this today.
Many older adults listen to the radio for the uplifting benefits of the music being played. Music has the power to bring back happy memories, fostering feelings of nostalgia and promoting happy reminiscing. It can also be a great source of relaxation, reducing stress and contributing to psychological well-being.
Much research has been done on the positive impact of music on our psychological well-being.
Whether the radio is something that provides a background to other activities, or a focussed activity in its own right, older adults enjoy this familiar medium. And the benefits of listening to the radio are many.