Think social media is for the youngsters who are seemingly only interested in celebrities and the newest beauty treatment? Think again, as many 60 and 70-year-old “grandfluencers” take the internet by storm with their wit, wisdom and insight into the world around them.
These men and women are only too willing to share what they have learned through social media, imparting their vast knowledge — sometimes with a good dollop of humor on the side.
Yiayia Nitsa, a Greek grandmother who isn’t shy about sharing her thoughts about the world, has her own Instagram, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Speaking about her granddaughter’s insistence on using the English language, she asks “WHY?? It’s very, very bad to refuse your blood!” (meaning “culture” in this sense). While sometimes struggling with English, Yiayia Nitsa’s meaning is easily understood by everyone, making her appeal surprisingly universal for someone who is so very traditional.
Usually speaking with her granddaughter, who prompts her with ideas upon which she gladly expands, she speaks with complete abandon and honesty, seemingly not understanding how humorous she is as she expounds on life.
Yiayia Nitsa’s observations on males — many of which are unprintable — are founded on her beliefs that most men today are unworthy mates and only one in a million of them are good enough to marry. “If I born again — No men!” she says with particular emphasis, recalling the days when she had been hit and abused by a former husband.
She got along perfectly well without a husband after that, the Yiayia explains.
Other 70-something social media grandfluencers are happy to share their knowledge and experience with others in the realm of health.
By the time she hit 71, Joan MacDonald was in real trouble. She was overweight and on a number of medications for high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and kidney problems.
Her daughter Michelle — who is a fitness coach — warned her “at the verge of tears,” she says, that she would eventually become an invalid if she didn’t take action to change her ways.
And that’s just what Joan did, entering a gym for the first time in her life in her seventh decade and even learning to eat better with the help of a brand new tool for her, an iPhone.
Just four years later, at 75, MacDonald boasts the physique of a female bodybuilder — and she has 1.4 million followers on Instagram who chart her progress along with her. And many of these, of course, are people much younger than she is.
Joan is part of a social media wave of oldsters who have carved out a new niche for themselves as grandfluencers, drawing in the younger generation to their brand of honest wisdom and self-deprecating humor.
Joan has her own Facebook page and YouTube channel as well, of course, and her webpage, “Train with Joan,” is a destination for all those of a certain age who have decided to bite the bullet and get back in shape.
Positive role models for younger generations
“It’s so rare to find someone her age being able to do all these things,” says one of her followers, 18-year-old Marianne Zapata of Larchmont, New York, in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s just such a positive thing to even think about.”
Not only has this septuagenarian transformed herself physically, she has made a new career because of her transformation as well, with paid partnerships with the sportswear brand Women’s Best, and the stress-reducing device maker Sensate.
At one time not even able to use digital technology at all, she now has her own health and fitness app that people can download for tips and workout plans.
Not to be outdone by young women in the beauty department, other 70-somethings focus on that aspect of style, giving online tutorials that ran up big numbers on social media that they hadn’t even heard about a decade ago.
Coronavirus changed social media landscape
Lagetta Wayne, who is 78, has 130,500 followers on the platform TikTok. Sh uses her platform to not only explore beauty tips and tricks but to share scenes of her gorgeous garden. Using the handle @msgrandmasgarden on TikTok, she shares her kitchen tips as well as she slices and dices up her own vegetables from her home in California.
Just joining the platform in June of last year, she racked up 37,600 likes for her first garden tour. Like many older social media influencers, Wayne was first introduced to the media by her grandchildren- in her case, her granddaughter.
“One day my garden was very pretty and I got all excited about that and I asked her if she would take some pictures of me,” Wayne recalls. “She said she was going to put me on TikTok and I said, well, what is TikTok? I had never heard of it.”
Contrary to popular belief, most people who are 50 and over so use technology to stay connected to friends and family, according to an AARP survey from 2019. However, less than half that number use social media for that purpose, with the majority of them using Facebook.
But the coronavirus changed everything, and in the last ear and a half, social media use has increased exponentially as our physical horizons shrunk for a time. According to Alison Bryant, the senior vice president for AARP, much of the content they seek is for that posted by people their own age.
They’re showing anybody can do these things”
“They’re showing that anybody can do these things, that you don’t have to be afraid of aging. The 20 and 30 somethings don’t often think about that,” Bryant said.
“The authenticity that we’re seeing in some of these older influencers is really refreshing. That’s part of the complexity of their narratives. They’re bringing other parts of their lives to it. They’re grandparents and great-grandparents and spouses. They’re more comfortable in their own skins.”
Fitness maven MacDonald said she was surprised at the beginning that people actually cared what she had to say.
“Why would people want to follow an old broad,” she laughed as she was interviewed from her home in Ontario, Canada. “My daughter, Michelle, cleared that up. She said it’s what you’re representing, that people can do what they think they’ve not been able to do or were told that they couldn’t do.”
An even more heartwarming part of this social media wave is that many of these septuagenarians team up with with their grandchildren to share their adventures with the world.
Mae Karwowski, who is the founder and CEO of the influencer marketing agency “Obviously,” counts over 100 influencers in her network who are between the ages of 60 and 80.
“Mainstream media, I would say, presents a really narrow viewpoint on this age group. What’s great about social media is you can follow a really cool 75-year-old woman who is just doing her thing in Florida and that’s fun. That’s different. And she’s funny,” Karwowski says, adding “The 21-year-old fashion model influencer is managed. She has a team.
“She has designers falling all over themselves to give her everything. She has professional photographers. A lot of these 70-plus influencers are doing it all.”