Although reputed for being the virtual playground of teenagers, TikTok has since made its way to older adults, some of whom have become content creators with millions of followers. Despite their immense sway over audiences, as well as their potential to reconfigure socially constructed notions of aging, these older TikTok personalities have been given scant attention in gerontological literature. We fill this gap by exploring how older adults use TikTok to engage in discourses on old age.
We compiled the most viewed videos of users aged 60 and older with at least 100,000 followers, generating 1,382 videos with over 3.5 billion views. Videos that did not feature older adults engaging in discourses on aging were excluded, resulting in 348 videos for content analysis. Both inductive and deductive approaches guided the qualitative analysis.
Three themes emerged: Nearly 3 in 4 videos featured older adults “Defying Age Stereotypes” (71%; Theme 1), 18% featured them “Making Light of Age-Related Vulnerabilities” (Theme 2), and 11% involved older adults “Calling out Ageism” (Theme 3).
This is the first known study exploring how older adults consciously engage in discourses of aging through their participation on TikTok. Our findings highlight the potential for older adults to be put at the vanguard of a movement aimed at challenging socially constructed notions of old age.