By Effie Dawson
It’s Monday morning and the conversation on Shawn Perry’s radio show, The Senior Zone, ranges far and wide, from caregiving and Social Security to dating apps, elder hostels and senior summer school.
Some of Perry’s listeners, who tend to be 50-plus, want to discuss national news. Others tune in for family and personal issues.
“I want each listener to walk away with something,” said Perry, 55, of Clarksburg. “We’ve covered gardening; we’ve covered senior sex. It’s not a one-dimensional population that we are serving.”
Perry’s show airs on Silver Spring–based WYCB (Spirit 1340 AM), on Mondays, from 10 to 11 a.m. It’s heard in Washington and parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Others listen at MySpiritDC.com or download show podcasts at TheSeniorZone.com, which also lists services and activities.
The show has about 20,000 radio listeners and another 10,000 who livestream it, Perry said.
Perry has become “a trusted source of information, especially in the 50-plus community,” said Tammy Bresnahan, AARP Maryland director for advocacy.
Bresnahan was on the show before last November’s elections. She encouraged listeners to vote for candidates who agree with them on issues important to older people, including prescription drug costs and the sustainability of Social Security and Medicare.
The Senior Zone, she said, helps those over 50 understand how influential they can be.
“Seniors vote at a much higher rate than people under 65,” Bresnahan observed. “They are a very important voting bloc, and they have a lot of power.”
Taking on tough subjects
Perry said he also likes to tackle issues that people avoid, like caregiving: “Most people have not started the conversation. It’s a difficult topic to start.”
When Lew Myers, owner of Right at Home, an in-home-care company based in Rockville, appeared on the show, he discussed the details of hiring a caregiver. For those who use a home-care company, Myers suggested asking how care is handled when the regular caregiver is off.
This year, Perry is hoping to add discussions on how aging affects a person’s happiness, relationships and their legacy. And he plans to talk about celebrities as they turn 50.
Personal and work experiences led Perry to the radio studio, even though he had no journalism or broadcasting training. After almost 22 years in the Air Force, he retired in 2004.
He worked in the Medicare insurance field, helping older people select health plans and giving them advice about services.
In 2012, Perry bought airtime at WYCB, and The Senior Zone was born. Besides hosting, he’s the executive producer, selling ads, scheduling guests and arranging show-related events.
Among those are monthly spa days that connect cosmetology students who need to fulfill school requirements with older customers who benefit from free haircuts and manicures.
“I use myself as an example of someone who was untrained in this area and took the first step of reimagining,” Perry said. “I want folks to know they can reinvent themselves as well.”
Myers said he knows why people listen to Perry’s program: “He helps normalize being a senior. He kind of makes it just a regular thing.”
Effie Dawson is a writer living in Arnold, Md.