TikTok’s @RetirementHouse 70s and 80s Show Young People How Lively Senior Life Can Be

By Jessica Hall

@RetirementHouse crosses generations, bringing old to young on TikTok.

Adi Azran, a content producer at a studio that makes TikTok videos, had a revelation last year when he showed colleague Brandon Chase a video from @ourfilipinograndma, which showed a grandmother delivering a pickup line of encounters.

The video has garnered over 12 million views.

Azran, 27, and Chase, 25, knew they had found the right niche to explore: older people doing unconventional things. They started writing scripts and ideas about a group of retirees living together. The full scripts, however, were quickly shelved after the first shoot, and the actors were asked to be themselves – only in their wackiest, wackiest ways.

Now only lightly scripted, the actors sync trending songs, play practical jokes, discuss dating advice, tackle the latest viral trend, and dance to songs like Armani White’s viral hit “Billie Eilish.” Some of the sketches are inspired by real life, while others are commentary on the culture of social media influencers, Azran said.

@RetirementHouse now has 4.2 million followers and still counting. The cast of six older adults in their 70s and 80s – who range from actors who have been in the business for decades and those with no acting experience – see themselves as having fun and pushing boundaries what is expected of older people.

“People who had no voice now have four million followers. It’s pretty fantastic,” said Jerry Boyd, 76, who plays Curtis in Retirement House.

Yet Retirement House’s followers pale in comparison to TikTok’s most followed account: @khaby.lame, with over 150 million followers. Khabane “Khaby” Lame is a Senegalese-Italian social media personality known for his videos in which he silently pokes fun at overly complicated life hacking videos.

Retirement House’s success was driven by humor, shock value and an endless stream of short snippets of unexpected fun, experts say.

“More traditionally, the older population is depicted in places or states of weakness — over health issues or sentimentality or emotionality. It’s a juxtaposition of older people syncing Cardi B’s songs,” said Jared Watson, associate professor of marketing. at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“There’s something new. It’s not that it’s the new way to go. ‘Retirement House’ won gold by delighting and entertaining its viewers,” Watson said. “People have a level of mortality salience — a sense of what we’ll look like as old people with all the negative connotations. These videos give ambitious hope.”

Retirement House is one of a group of so-called “grandfluencers”, senior citizens who use social media to talk about everything from fashion and gardening to parenting and dating. Four friends on TikTok known as @OldGays have 8.4 million followers, while @GBandme has 5.7 million followers and @Grandma_droniak has 4.8 million followers.

“It’s a growing niche. Hopefully we’ll see more older creators. Some brands are looking to target more than 50 people,” said Mae Karwowski, chief executive of Evidence, a marketing agency. influence.

TikTok, a social media platform typically followed by younger viewers, is an unconventional place to portray older people. But the Retirement House videos are far from traditional, so they work for various generations, experts said.

“Collaborative houses are a big thing for Gen Z, so it really works for them,” Karwowski said. “Seeing old people will come out of the TikTok stream and viewers will be like, ‘Oh, that’s different.’ They are a success.”

Videos may first be seen by younger audiences, but then that viewer may show the video to their parents or grandparents, so there’s cross-generational viewing — and perhaps better cross-generational understanding, Watson said. .

“There’s this idea that people get old and take medication and have a walker. They don’t,” said Elizabeth Gaylynn Baker, 85, who plays Mabel. “Laughter is really necessary. We have a war in Europe. We are tearing the Earth apart. Our values ​​are so distorted. We need to laugh. Laugh at ourselves, laugh with each other. We are just trying to make people laugh the people .”

TikTok has refused to disclose the demographic information of its subscribers. The marketing agency evidently stated that nearly 60% of Retirement House’s audience was between the ages of 18 and 24, and nearly 25% were between the ages of 25 and 34.

On Instagram, where users tend to be slightly older than TikTok, Azran said Retirement House’s primary audience was 25-35, followed by 35-45, then 18-24.

“We’ll see comments from people coming in from 60 to 81 up to 16. It’s digestible for everyone,” Azran said.

Creators hope to use TikTok as a larger platform, with a podcast in the works and a TV show as the ultimate aspiration, Chase said.

Azran added that they would love to do a comedy sketch show with different sets or locations, rather than pretending they’re in a cafe when they’re really on the set of the rented house in Hollywood, for example.

Some pundits wonder if “Retirement House” can thrive outside of short TikTok videos.

“My ‘retirement home’ feeling is that it works extremely well in its short form and can live on TikTok for its full duration. Thinking about transitioning to a larger show, it would probably lose some its younger core demographic,” says Watson.

Retirement House has attracted national advertisers such as Snickers, Ancestry and KFC, which the creators claim proves it is a viable business.

“At the end of the day, it costs money. We have to be a working business so we can continue to create content for people,” Azran said.

Some have questioned whether the videos made fun of the actors, but participants deny this and claim they know about the jokes. The actors say they see Retirement House as entertainment and games.

“It’s not making fun of old people. It’s showing old people with courage and common sense,” said Reatha Grey, 73, who plays Rose. “I didn’t know what an influencer was. Now I’m a ‘big influencer’. It showed me that you’re not dead, you’re just older.”

Chuck Lacey, 70, who plays Eugene: “I don’t mind that I’m not plugged in. I’m having a blast.”

“I love that it pushes back stereotypes about older people and technology,” said Megan Gerhardt, professor of management at the University of Miami Farmer School of Business in Ohio and author of “Gentlemanship.” .

“If we turn a generation into a trope or a stereotype, we fuel the problem. When we reduce people to stereotypes, we lose a lot,” Gerhardt said. “Is it done in a way that people make fun of each other? I don’t know. There’s a country or prank aspect to it. Maybe that’s the point – it’s so exaggerated that they’re all in on the joke?”

-Jessica room

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

10-08-22 1503ET

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