Up until now, social media has predominantly been the domain of the young. Hordes of 20-somethings are amassing millions of followers and securing lucrative collaborations and brand deals. However, a fresh wave of influencers is emerging, and they’re capturing the hearts of millions.
Tech-savvy over-50s are sharing their passions, wisdom and unique perspectives with a global audience, and they’re doing it with style, humour and authenticity. They have been dubbed the granfluencers.
Research has found that those aged 18 to 24 make up almost 43 per cent of TikTok’s total audience aged 18 and above. However, the popularity of older content creators is quickly dismantling the generational stereotype. While they’re not the majority demographic, granfluencers seem to have their finger on the pulse of what users enjoy.
In a world obsessed with youth and perfection, granfluencers offer a refreshing departure from the norm. They challenge society’s fixation on age and demonstrate that life doesn’t stop after retirement. For example, Lillian Droniak, (@grandma_droniak), a 93-year-old TikToker who has 11.8 million followers, talks about her dating history and posts funny get-ready-with-me videos.
“Just because someone’s over the age of 50 doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of humour,” says Catharine Lumby, professor of media and communications at the University of Sydney. “It’s become a way of all generations connecting and finding their own tribes.”
Some older people may join to stay connected to their grandkids; others to fill up their spare time and remain connected to the world post-retirement, says Prof. Lumby. Their growing online presence indicates a maturation not only of more contemporary platforms such as TikTok, but of the digital media landscape at large.
“We used to talk about digital natives, which implies there were people who were just completely hopeless at technology. But that’s no longer the case,” Prof. Lumby says. “Pretty much everyone’s got a smartphone in their bag and a laptop on their desk.”
Positive content around ageing
Recently, there’s been an uptick in positive content around ageing. In one video, which amassed 2.7 million views and 400,000 likes, Julia Fox declares “ageing is fully in.” She said: “If I see another product that says anti-ageing on the label, I’m suing. I’m going to sue because I’m going to age regardless of if I put the $500 serum on my face. Let’s stop lying to ourselves.”
Granfluencers are also challenging stereotypes about ageing and retirement. They’re not spending their days in rocking chairs or fading into the background. Instead, they’re travelling, pursuing hobbies and starting new adventures. They’re proving that you can reinvent yourself at any age, and they’re inspiring others to do the same. This empowerment is resonating with people of all ages and backgrounds.
How granfluencers shot to success
The success of granfluencers is largely down to TikTok’s interface. Rather than favouring content from those you follow (who likely mirror your demographic), TikTok develops algorithms based on interests. This helps older creators push in front of other content and reach young users.
Their pictures and videos are also delightfully different from the typical highly curated, aspirational content seen everywhere.
“A characteristic of younger users is that social media increasingly is a way of trying out a persona. Older people have a more established identity, so there’s probably less experimentation of the self and more realism,” Prof. Lumby says.
There are many influencers over the age of 50 with enormous social media clout. There’s Helen Elam (@baddiewinkle) who’s known for her outlandish fashion statements. Carla Rockmore (@carlarockmore) who is a fashion designer and influencer known for her get-ready-with-me videos.
And, refusing to let the ladies steal the show, 59-year-old educator Irvin Randle (@irvinrandle) is making a name for himself as Mr. Steal Your Grandma. You can catch Mr Randle sharing his favourite outfits with his nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram.
Ting Ma (@tingmystyle) makes fashion, beauty and fitness content. She works actively to challenge the notion that to be over 50 is to be frumpy. In one of her most viral TikToks, Ting Ma explains: “I don’t dress cool to impress men. I dress cool so that when a young girl passes me, she thinks being older is not a fearful thing, and women can have grey hair and wrinkles yet still look confident and be excited about growing older.”
The only thing all these creators have in common is that they’re older than the traditional social media influencer. It’s inspirational for young people to see a thriving, stylish creator when the world sometimes assumes a person’s value declines after 30, but it’s also relatable content for older people, who want to see people their age living their lives.
Susan Douglas, professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan, notes that this uptick of older women in the spotlight is not just a trend, but is part of a much larger phenomenon. “There are more women over 50 now than at any time in history. So, this is our demographic’s revolution. This is the same generation of women who pushed forward the women’s movement and who said no to all kinds of constraints against education and employment and other opportunities,” Prof. Douglas said.
Granfluencers are the unlikely next generation of influencers, and their presence on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram is reshaping the landscape of social media. They are breaking stereotypes, fostering intergenerational connections and reminding us all that life is a journey worth sharing, regardless of age. So don’t be surprised if a granfluencer’s feed becomes your new favourite source of inspiration and entertainment.
What do you think of granfluencers? Do you have a favourite? Let us know in the comment section below.