Over the last decade, we have seen social media snowball. According to a 2019 We Are Social report, 3.484 billion people actively use it - that's 45% of the world’s population. Inevitably they look to influencers - people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific theme - to guide them with their decision making. Influencers make regular posts about a topic on their preferred channel and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.
The Covid-19 pandemic increased the use of internet, digital, and social media by older adults. In 2017, 12% of consumers were over the age of 55, but in 2020, that number reached 24%. Considering the size of the group and the aging population in the country, this seems to be a clear sign that the growth comes from older people.
Since this newsletter is about aging well, let’s take the discussion a step further – let me introduce you to granfluencers – people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s who have millions of followers on Instagram or YouTube - and make money on sponsorship deals.
I had never heard of the term; so I was intrigued. Let me introduce you to a few of the granfluencer stars.
Helen Ruth Elam, age 92, who goes by Baddie Winkle on Instagram, has 3.5 million followers. She is known for her humor and for fighting against ageism through her style and messaging, characterized by wearing eccentric clothes, and promoting legalization of medical marijuana. Winkle is an activist and influencer whose self-expression is a statement of disapproval of the beauty industry and the false limitations it imposes on women.
Lyn Slater, age 67, has 749,000 Instagram followers. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice and a Ph.D. in social welfare, but she personifies the adage, ‘aging gracefully.’ She earns $2,984 for a sponsored post. Lyn became famous when a professional photographer mistook her for a fashion model. Her blog challenges people’s perceptions of what it means to be an older woman.
Joan McDonald, age 74, is a fitness expert with 1.1 million followers. Watch one of her videos; you will be amazed!
Sarah-Jane Adams, age 65, has 194,000 followers. She offers the world a mix of vintage, hippy, sportswear, punk, and culturally diverse looks. Sarah has a jewelry line, wrote a book, and has contracts and partnerships that support her.
Irvin Randle, age 59, has 417,000 followers. He is an American teacher and fashion model. On the internet, he's known for his stylish pictures, which earned him the title #MrStealYourGrandma. Irvin became famous when photos from his Instagram account went viral. He is featured in major magazines and the media.
Shirley Curry, age 83, delights in video games and shares her sessions on a YouTube channel. She makes videos and spends time with her family and grandchildren.
Vicky Bennison, age 60, is the founder of Pasta Grannies. She features Italian grandmas cooking their best pasta dishes every episode. Vicky travels throughout Italy to provide new homemade pasta recipes every week. These grannies aren’t chefs, and some are well into their nineties, but they are no-nonsense, talented cooks bringing the best of traditional Italian cuisine.
Iris Apfel, age 99, is the oldest influencer, but has just topped a million and a half followers. She shows no signs of letting up. In addition to her long career as an interior designer, she is a fashion model and the subject of a 2014 documentary called Iris.
In this newsletter, we talk about aging well. Granfluencers seem to embody that idea. I am not proposing that anyone become a granfluencer, but maybe there is more a person can do if he or she chooses to - to get involved in life as much as possible given the circumstances.
At the age of 82, I became a widow after 62 years of marriage. When my husband died, my health was not good and my blood pressure was high. I ate unhealthy foods, was drained emotionally, exercised little, and stayed home..
So, this past year I began anew. I created a newsletter and am learning to paint. I exercise daily, make food choices based on the Mediterranean diet, and go out with friends again.
While I have no plans to be an influencer, I do plan to use them as role models, to do my best, for as long as possible.
How about you? How will you spend the rest of your life?