Alan Swan on the importance of being ‘older, not over’

Podcast ep 32: Seasoned broadcasting executive Alan Swan has embarked on a new endeavour with, aimed at inspiring people in their 30s and 40s who are pondering changing career.

One of the strange anomalies of life in the 21st century is that most of the marketing and advertising appears to be predicated on selling everything around youth, despite the fact that it is older people who have all the cash. Oh, and  experience, perspective, knowledge and more.

It’s as if the marketers have forgotten that selling is about appealing to people’s aspirations and that ageing gracefully, gainfully and productively should be an aspiration too. The danger is that the focus and celebration of youth could lead to lots of relatively young people in their 30s, 40s and 50s believing it is too late to enjoy more life successes.

“You see this stuff all the time, the ‘hot 30 under 30’ and certain industries treat age in a really horrible way. I think slowly but surely that’s going to have to change”

Well Alan Swan is on the case. As well as being responsible for branded content partnerships at Ireland’s main broadcaster RTÉ, Swan has embarked on a new personal venture called, a newsletter and podcast series aimed at inspiring people in their 30s and 40s who are pondering changing career. So far, he has interviewed Jack Reacher author Lee Child and Richard E Grant, to name a few.

Swan calls for a more positive attitude to ageing and career development.

Take for example his interview with Lee Child. It turns out Child was made redundant from a job he loved at 40 but went on to become one of the world’s biggest selling authors.

Experience sells


For Swan, now 41 himself, the genesis for his train of thought was when he was in his late 30s suddenly having to deal with a lot of personal life events. “I was very happy in my career, but was getting this feeling as I got close to 40, ‘should I do something different with life’?”

Just as Ireland went into lockdown he thought about a lot of people in his age group who are hurting right now; dealing with job uncertainty, struggling businesses, working remotely but lonely.

“People have been forced to make changes they may not want and maybe these interviews might help them.

“I’m 41, I’m not done. I’m older, not over. And I thought if I did a newsletter with some inspirational stories and interviews it might just be something that might bring a bit of confidence to people and help people out.”

He said that if people in lockdown have time to think more clearly about what they want, may be they would write that book, start that business, become a beekeeper or pursue something they are passionate about in parallel with the day job.

Swan’s career in the media, starting off as a radio and TV presenter, has positioned him for pursuing what he calls his “passion project”.

“I’m incredibly lucky to have had the career that I’ve had, and I just wanted to put this out into the world and see what would happen.”

One of his motivations is how the world treats the subject of ageing. “You see this stuff all the time, the ‘hot 30 under 30’ and certain industries treat age in a really horrible way. I think slowly but surely that’s going to have to change because we all grow old in the end. It’s not something you can hit pause on.

“I think what has happened this year is also a kind of great reset where people are sitting down and thinking maybe there is more they can do with their lives.”

He found his interview with Lee Child particularly inspiring. “What struck me about Lee was he’s a very pragmatic character. And I think that probably helped him an awful lot; he knew somewhat that the job he was doing was going to come to an end and he had a bit of runway to prepare for what was going to happen. He loved reading and he goes ‘I have a pen and paper and he wrote a page or two a day and it became a novel. Not everyone is going to write a Jack Reacher novel, but the sentiment was that he decided to draw a line in the sand, he wasn’t going to sit there and wait for someone else to solve his problem, he was going to attempt and solve it himself.”

Swan adds: “Not everyone has that kind of personality, but the most important thing about Lee was that he was willing to try, and he was willing to fail. It’s better to try and fail than not try at all.”

Asked if he thinks that endeavours like will bring perspective and encouragement to people who may be no longer in their 20s but have plenty to offer but also change or challenge the youth-obsessed marketing zeitgeist, Swan too is pragmatic. “I think there’s room for both. And I think that maybe older generations have been squeezed out of the conversation. If anything, hopefully this might start a conversation about the conversation.”

Interview by John Kennedy (

Published: 2 October, 2020

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