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A New Podcast to Demystify Complex Issues

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Thyonne Gordon, 60, hosts the podcast “In Clear Terms with AARP California” out of her home office in Los Angeles. She hopes the show can be a vehicle to help explain and demystify complex issues that affect all adults.
Jessica Pons

Jumping into the world of podcasting is no easy feat, especially for an organization like AARP that caters to older adults. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts worldwide and they tend to draw youthful listeners.

But podcast audiences are growing, and AARP has stepped into that vast media universe with In Clear Terms with AARP California. Thyonne Gordon, a consultant, writer and producer, and the volunteer host for the 20- to 40-minute, twice-a-month podcast, hopes to deliver vital information on subjects ranging from using today’s digital technology to ways to avoid scams.

For “Housing in the Golden State,” Gordon interviewed Denise Pinkston, founder of the Casita Coalition, which advocates for affordable small homes.

Pinkston talked about how long-term policies have resulted in “only a trickle” of such homes being built to meet exploding demand, and also about housing that has everything but isn’t environmentally sustainable. Such residences are likely too large and unaffordable for older adults, or for their children and grandchildren.

Gordon’s aim is to demystify complex issues. “We have so many means of communication and it can be overwhelming,” says Gordon, 60, who is based in Los Angeles and has a background in nonprofit management, and a doctorate in human and organizational development.

A natural storyteller

Gordon draws on her leadership positions with youth organizations — including foster youth — and as a broadcast producer. “I’m a storyteller,” she says. “Having a conversation is not difficult for me. I ask things I want to know.”

She helped AARP California plan the podcast but didn’t expect to host until she was asked. “They said, ‘We’re sending you a professional mic in the mail and we’ll send you the script,’ ” she says. “We have amazing production workers, they talk me through it — plugging in the mic, setting volume.”

The podcast launched in May 2022 and is a yearlong experiment to see how a new platform would fare with audiences. Producers hoped to get 200 downloads per episode; so far, they’re averaging more than 4,000.

Reaching new audiences is important, as younger people today will be older ones tomorrow. “The information is intended to illuminate both the advocacy and outreach work we’re doing across the state,” says Nancy McPherson, AARP California state director.

While podcasting has taken off in the past decade, older American have been slower to stick in the earbuds. A 2022 survey from Edison Research found that 50 percent of younger adults had listened to a podcast in the previous month, compared with 22 percent of those 55-plus.

In Clear Terms’ topics have been serious, including how to deal with extreme heat, what can be done about escalating housing prices, and ways to prepare for natural disasters in a state facing both earthquakes and wildfires.

It breaks down complex issues into relatable concepts, such as, why is my electric bill going up? Gordon asks her guests to “explain it like I’m a third grader. We take it back like that, and we cut through the frustration.”

You can listen to the podcast at in-clear-terms.simplecast.com, or at other providers, including Audible, Spotify and Apple.

Barbara Kingsley-Wilson is a writer living in Long Beach.

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