In the early days of the Internet, it took a good bit of technical know-how to leverage its potential power. When it came to distributing content, the gatekeepers were technically gone, but it wasn’t until consumer-friendly software and powerful apps were readily available that the ability to create and share content was democratized.
Understandably, the early adopters were digital natives; teens and young adults who grew up using social media platforms for communication and personal expression. The trendsetters among this group developed followers who looked to them for inspiration and advice and the age of the influencer was born.
The influencer marketing industry quickly followed when brands recognized the ability of these trendsetters to impact the purchasing decisions of their followers and began collaborating with them to promote their products and services.
Over time, social media became more widely adopted by older adults and today the fastest growing demographic on almost every social
media platform consists of adults over the age of 50. This led to the rise of “silver influencers” or “granfluencers.”
Some granfluencers are little more than puppets for younger creators looking for laughs and followers with content that only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes of aging. In their hands, older adults are presented as bumbling buffoons trying to act like teenagers.
At the opposite end of the older influencer spectrum are those who espouse personal growth and self-love. They present an authentic, inspiring, and valuable look at aging by sharing life experiences in every way imaginable including health, fitness, fashion, beauty, cooking, gardening, travel, and more. They’re transforming lives by demonstrating that more is possible than our ageist culture has led us to believe.
At Growing Bolder we call this “the someone like me effect.” When we can see ourselves in others, when we can see someone doing something that we want to do but didn’t think we could do, our belief system about what’s possible changes. When our belief system changes,our life can change.
Not surprisingly, the most successful older influencers are women who are paving the way for self-acceptance and happy and healthy aging with a message that appeals to people of all ages. They’re redefining age and the experiences it can bring. And many are now being rewarded financially. Those with large followings are paid anywhere from $50 to tens of thousands of dollars for a single post through sponsored content and brand deals. And many don’t stop with a YouTube channel, Instagram, or TikTok page. They’re launching websites and podcasts, writing books, and setting up online stores and earning affiliate fees for selling the products they hype.
Twenty years ago, you needed to own a production company and a newspaper or television and radio network to reach a broad audience. Today you only need a smartphone, an internet connection, and a message that resonates to make a living for yourself and make a difference in the lives of others. Here’s to the new, older Women of Influence.
Lynn Yamada “Lynja” Davis, is a retired MIT engineer who was quarantined with her husband and son, Tim, during the pandemic. Tim, a freelance videographer and editor, challenged the family to make 30 short videos in 30 days to keep his creative and technical skills sharp. He made videos of Lynja and her husband playing with the dog, mowing the lawn, and filling the birdfeeder. He shot a few cooking segments with Lynja who turned out to be a natural on camera.
Lynn Yamada “Lynja” Davis – 74
15.1M TikTok Followers
“I’m just a regular mom with killer
Lynja’s sense of humor combined with Tim’s editing style: quick cuts, sound effects, pop culture references and comedic visual choices resulted in unconventional cooking videos. After a slow start Cooking with Lynja took off when her 29-second breakfast sandwich tutorial went viral on TikTok. “Tim called me and said, ‘Mom, we have 300,000 views.’ I thought he was joking. Why would anybody watch a bacon, egg, and cheese video?” Collectively, Cooking with Lynja videos have more than 3 billion views to date, and she has over 15 million followers on TikTok alone.
Elisa Berrini Gómez – 56
286K TikTok Followers
“I tried dressing my age, and I look dead. You don’t dress your age, you dress your energy.”
Elisa Berrini GÓmez describes herself as a radical self-acceptance activist. A bilingual Latina, she uses her signature long, grey hair to stimulate conversations in two languages around aging, mindset, and positivity.
GÓmez encourages women of all ages to disregard the judgement of others and reject our cultures unrealistic standards of beauty. “I am not a fashion stylist, makeup artist, nor hair stylist. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any of these areas. However, when it comes to styling, I do ‘me’ and if my ‘me’ prompts ideas to others, my work is done. My kind of woman is one who is not afraid to admit that she has gained weight, no longer has the same strength, accepts her wrinkles and, of course, her grey hair.”
Davis – 72
242K Instagram Followers
“What I’ve gained more than anything is appreciation for the incredible, human body. Part of self-loving is moving and being able to move. I don’t want to get in the bathtub and have to call the fire department to get me out. Can I please tie my own shoes when I’m 90?”
Babette Davis is a Los Angeles-based vegan chef, fitness enthusiast, actress, activist, and health crusader. She loves the camera, and the camera loves her. Her videos are filled with infectious energy and inspiration to eat better and never stop moving.
Babette endured a challenging childhood that led to an addiction to drugs and processed foods. Battling numerous serious health issues, she made the personal commitment to lifestyle change and totally transformed her life.
Babette not only proves that it’s never too late to turn it all around; but she also shows, by example, how to do it.
Clements – 62
305K TikTok Followers
“Sex is not the gateway to kindness. Your penis is not the hug I need at the end of the day. I don’t need your penis. I need you to stop doing shit that makes me act like a bitch.”
Heidi Clements describes herself as a “writer/wearer of clothes.” She’s a longtime blogger, a former producer for Entertainment Tonight and executive producer on the ABC sitcom “Baby Daddy.”
A tattooed former alcoholic, Heidi says she is now addicted to “good shoes and bad cake.” She lives in Los Angeles with “three dogs, debt, and the judgment of others.”
What is the WelcomeToHeidi TikTok channel about? The obvious answer is that it’s about Heidi trying on everything in her closet and parading in front of her camera. The introduction to her book by the same name offers a much better description.
“Take a trip inside the mind of a sarcastic, dysmorphic, slightly mental, completely fashion addicted, single woman who’s trying to live the second half of her life with zero apologies and massive debt.”
Rudnick – 80
387K TikTok Followers
“Don’t be afraid to eat dinner or see a movie by yourself. Actually, I prefer it.”
Gail Rudnick discusses the generational differences of dating, sex, and relationships with her 27-year-old granddaughter, Kim. Grandma Gail offers advice for younger generations based upon her decades of life experience. It all started when Gail and Kim moved in together during the pandemic and Kim began asking for dating advice. They soon realized that the generations have a lot to learn from each other and their podcast was born.
Like many channels involving older influencers and creators, Grandma Gail’s online presence and success is facilitated by a younger relative. In this case, granddaughter Kim, who has a background in streaming media production, marketing, and distribution. The two now have an Excuse My Grandma podcast, website, online store with branded merchandise and popular social media channels on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
This article is featured in the Spring 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.