Chances are, most seniors know that TikTok has nothing to do with clocks. Originally popularized by teens, it has slowly traveled upwards to older age groups but seniors are still a rarity on the app both as viewers and participants. Why? Probably because most of us have no idea what it is.
So, what is TikTok anyway?
TikTok is a social media app that allows kids (and anyone else) to express themselves by creating, sharing and discovering short videos, most under a minute. Young people use it for singing, dancing, comedy and lip-syncing to music. The TikTok app gives them high tech tools like filters, control over video speed, access to professional audio and more. Watch this video to find out how it works.
The best way to try it is to download the TikTok app on your phone and click on it. You’ll see a string of videos of what’s trending that day and can follow them. For example, I love funny dogs so I now follow this TikTok with Moonpie, a 9 pound dachshund wearing frilly dresses who speaks like a toddler. If you don’t understand why people watch TikTok, I challenge you to watch a few Moonpie videos and not laugh. As you start watching videos on TikTok, the app’s algorithms learn what you like and show you more of it.
Why is TikTok so popular? It’s a mood elevator. The minute or less format distills the best moments of any performance or experience into a visual haiku—providing a quick laugh, a quick awwwww, or even a quick quack (there are duck TikToks too).
It’s easy to get addicted to TikTok and spend hours on it, even if you’re not a Gen Z or Millenial. My Facebook friends agree. Sixty-five-year-old book publicist Cathy Lewis is a fan, “The videos are funny, creative,” she says. “There are great recipes. It’s much more entertaining than Facebook.” Nancy Peske, in her late fifties, watches TikTok videos of psychologists offering insights with her college-age psychology student son. Leanne Phillips, 61, loves cute baby and toddler videos.
TikTok is not just for kids
The TikTok age demographic is slowly trending up. Older women started doing Tik Tok videos during the pandemic to keep occupied, plus, as this AARP article explains, it’s more authentic than other social media outlets.
Seniors are featured mostly in videos made by their grandkids. Some of the biggest TikTok stars are in their 80s. According to this Buzzfeed article, “during the pandemic TikTok became a way of connecting people — strangers, really — across the globe. So, it should come as no surprise that older people have also developed fans of all ages on the platform — 82-year-old user @charlesmallet has over 4 million followers.
Do those grandparents enjoy being on TikTok? By all reports, they love it. Ko Im, a 30 year old journalist, wrote about how her TikToks of her grandma making kimchee during her visit to South Korea went viral. “I don’t think she quite understood the global reach of TikTok and how many people viewed her videos,” Ko reports, “but she’s a natural!
How to make your own Tik Tok:
If you want to make your own Tik Tok it helps to be familiar with digital video creation, including filters, effects, templates, audio and more. This YouTube video gives step by step instructions. Of course, it helps to have a grandchild or other digital native to collaborate with.
Despite the age gap, seniors are discovering the platform, especially if they have information to share or something to promote. Judy Cole, 63, who calls herself Funny Old Fart, put up this TikTok using cue cards.
Maybe you have a special talent and can demonstrate it on Tik Tok or just want to impart some pithy wisdom. There is an audience—mostly of young people—for what you have to offer.
Update: AARP has just launched its own TikTok account. Visit it here.