Here’s something to celebrate on Grandparents Day this Sunday, September 11th: The grandparent demographic is sparking trends with millennials and changing the way we view aging. Want to know which demographic controls 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income? No, it’s not millennials. It’s baby boomers. In fact, when you add up the numbers for the older generation’s spending power, it comes to a whopping $7 billion annually — both in person and online. So why do brands typically dedicate 50 percent of their marketing budgets to millennials and only 10 percent to boomers? Are they missing the boat?
In 2020, Aura Frames partnered with then 65-year-old Charlotte Simpson (@travelingblackwidow), a retired guidance counselor-turned-influencer whose TikTok presence ended up accounting for the company’s best-performing ad ever.
The Cultural Rise of Granfluencers in Lifestyle Media
While many brands continue to miss out, savvy apparel, cosmetics, food, fitness, lifestyle, and other brands have tapped into the exploding universe of “granfluencers”—the word a portmanteau of grandparent and influencer. These individuals, ages 55-plus, are soaring up the Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter ranks, responsible for garnering up to hundreds of millions of dollars in brand revenue. Their wear-my-age-like-a-badge visibility cuts across borders to people of all ages, pulling in old and young followers alike. For example, with a reported 3.5 million Instagram followers, granfluencer 94-year-old Baddie Winkle has partnerships with products including generation-neutral Amazon Echo, Svedka Vodka, Aussie Hair, Fashion Nova, and more. If that doesn’t close the demographic divide, nothing does.
Granfluencers Earning a Living as Gamers
At the same time, not all granfluencers have or want brand partnerships. Some, like 86-year-old Shirley Curry, are accomplished gamers, her income reportedly stemming from her 1,000-plus YouTube channel subscribers. With 1,888 videos and 22,802,541 video views to date, Curry was taught to play Civilization II by her son in 1996, saying she was immediately hooked, her multi-generational reach today undeniable. “(Back then) I’d play so much, day and night,” she said in a September 2020 New York Times article. “I’d just go out and conquer continent after continent and I loved it.” Since her 2011 YouTube debut, Curry has helped new generations of gamers get in the game, whatever her current game may be.
Ages of Enlightenment for Millennials and Gen Z
Maddie Simon, 25, a graduate student in Boston, says she and her friends rarely think about age when watching their favorite influencers. “We like what they have to tell us – or teach us – they’ve clearly done their homework and their opinions matter,” she says. “With an older generation, they also tend to be more candid and authentic with fewer embellishments. They’re the real thing.” Phoenix-based paralegal Ryan Schofield, 39, agrees. “Solid product knowledge is solid product knowledge,” he says. “In fact, in the realm of diverse and accurate representation, I’m more likely to take someone seriously who isn’t 21.”
Thanks to the rise of granfluencers, we are finally catching on to what more ancient cultures have known for centuries: revering the elderly is a win-win situation. Who else is as qualified to share experience-based wisdom, recommendations, and advice – and now even earn a living doing it?
Remember the baby boomer battle cry of the 1960s, “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” Today those boomers are well into their 60s and 70s. Fortunately for them, and the generations succeeding them, age is cool.
“Senior Citizen Granfluencers Changing Views on Aging,” written by Beth Herman, Amada blog contributor.