University City

Radio show focused on over-55 community

It was Sunday morning and David Gwilt's sound engineer signaled through the booth that caller "Greg" from Lake Norman was on the line.

Gwilt nodded, then piped into his microphone, "Hi Greg, you're on 'Radio 4 the Ages.' "

That morning the senior-focused radio program Gwilt hosts on Sundays had tackled dementia, and Greg, a listener, had noticed his mother was showing some of the early signs they'd just mentioned. By show's end, Greg was persuaded to make an appointment for her to see a doctor.

That's the kind of help Gwilt likes to give on "Radio 4 the Ages." He created the program last September and began airing it on Charlotte's WBCN (1660 AM). It's the reason the 62-year-old went back to school and earned a graduate certificate in gerontology from UNC Charlotte.

Gwilt has always had a soft spot for older adults, even as a child growing up in New York, he said.

"For some reason, it's not like I wasn't out playing ball with the other kids," he said, "but if Grandma was sitting out on the porch, I liked to sit around and talk to her."

After a long career in sales and marketing, Gwilt decided to shift focus and serve the senior adult community, which had tugged at him for a good number of years.

He had hosted a real estate program in Charlotte a few years back, and thought a radio program that tackles topics important to the growing senior population would catch on.

"I looked around and there was nothing on the air in Charlotte," he said. "There was almost nothing nationwide that was senior-focused radio."

For the past five months, "Radio 4 the Ages" has covered such topics as elder abuse, aging with dignity, dementia, retirement and nutrition.

"There's not a topic we won't touch," said Gwilt. "I want to inform them, keep them involved, active and listened to."

The program has picked up listeners along the way. Podcasts of past shows are available on the station's website; internet tracking indicates the show has followers in Florida, New York, Oregon, Spain, England, Moscow, even Tel Aviv, Israel.

"I think he's really filled an important gap in what we've had available," said Dr. Dena Shenk, director of UNCC's gerontology program. "I think the idea of having a show that speaks to these issues and needs is so valuable because, for some people, it may be their first point of information. It may be their first recognition that what they're dealing with, other people are dealing with also."

Gwilt takes no salary for the show; neither do his colleagues Heather Hammond and Matt Weeden, who join him each week.

Their initial goal is to keep the program afloat, and simply find enough advertisers to pay for the $40,000 worth of air time they buy each year to produce the show.

Sometimes it's a recurring cliffhanger as to whether they will return to the airwaves the next month.

Gwilt said he hopes the goup never runs out of money, because he knows they'll never run out of listeners.

"10,000 people turn 60 every day," he said.