Why older people are flocking to TikTok

TikTok may be seen as the domain of the young, but older users are taking the social media platform by storm, with videos by seniors getting billions of views from millions of followers.

The video sharing platform mostly populated by gen-Zers lip-syncing or showing off their dance moves is slowly being taken over by older content creators, according to research conducted by Yale University.

The senior social media stars are fighting back against ageism and shaking perceptions that older people are all technophobic.

The researchers say these older users are challenging the way society expects older to people to behave, both on and off social media.

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“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful countercultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” says Professor Reuben Ng, co-author of the study.

For the uninitiated, TikTok is an online, short-form video streaming and sharing app that allows users to upload short 15-second video recordings of anything they like (within content guidelines).

With over 655 million users worldwide, including 7.38 million in Australia, TikTok is a truly global phenomenon allowing anyone the chance to potentially reach an enormous audience.

The researchers looked at 1382 videos posted by users aged 60 and over that had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, the videos examined had more than 3.5 billion views. Most of these older content creators were women.

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“Most TikTok elders are women who fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” Prof. Ng says.

Nearly one in five of the videos analysed in the study mock age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 denounce ageism among both young and some older people.

The content put out by older people on TikTok is varied, and includes workout routines, cooking demonstrations, hilarious social commentary and even the odd comedy sketch.

Check out some of the most popular senior TikTok content creators out there.

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Dolores Paolino, @dolly_broadway

Dolores, 89, better known as Dolly Broadway, is the poster child for the older TikTok movement. She’s loud, brash and her videos often see her clad in sequined dresses or the shortest of short shorts, commenting on everything from celebrity gossip to what her family have been up to.

Dolores boasts more than one million followers, who lap up her charming wit and laugh at the many (mostly harmless) pranks she plays on everyone her around her.

Lynn Yamada, @cookingwithlynja

Lynn ‘Lynja’ Yamada is a 74-year-old mother whose cooking channel has exploded in popularity over the past few years, especially with younger generations.

Lynn has a sweet and encouraging personality and tries to make her recipes as accessible as possible for all viewers. It’s no surprise she has amassed more than 11 million followers.

Her videographer son helps produce her videos, so Lynn’s content generally has a more professional feel than most on TikTok.

Joe Allington, @grandadjoe1933

Like many older people, Joe initially joined the platform during the COVID lockdowns after being encouraged to by his family.

Since then, he has attracted more than five million followers drawn in by his “wholesome family content”, as he describes it.

His first video posted to TikTok saw him struggling with empty shelves at the supermarket during the pandemic. The video was viewed more than 42 million times and gained him thousands of followers.

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