Helen Polise used the extra time she had during the pandemic last year to learn TikTok, the wildly popular — and controversial — short-form video sharing social platform.
Before long, the 60-year-old New York-based producer of TV commercials was not only consuming TikTok videos but making her own, many to help other TikTok users master the nuts and bolts of the service. Under the TikTok handle @themuthership, Polise has some 331,000 followers and 1.9 million “likes” from people across the age spectrum.
The cool thing about the app is that “it just defies all the age boundaries,” she says. Indeed, while teens and people younger than 30 make up nearly half of TikTok users in the U.S, 11 percent are 50 and older, according to recent stats from the App Ape mobile apps analytics service that were published by consumer data firm Statista.
Why you might want to join
Some older adults join TikTok to bond with their kids and grandkids. Others just want to discover what the younger generation is up to.
"I mean, just watching teenagers dance when you're waiting in line for something to happen [is] a very uplifting form of social media,” says Katherine Black, 52, who works in Silicon Valley and is a huge TikTok fan.
TikTok is full of diversions that may help older folks, or people of any age, feel less bored or lonely. While it is not so much about meeting people as it is learning something, selling something or being entertained, you may make social connections along the way.
The wide range of celebrities on the platform include 52-year-old Will Smith (59.3 million followers), 49-year-old Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (37.4 million), 52-year-old Jennifer Lopez (13.6 million) and 83-year-old Sir Anthony Hopkins (2 million). Their official accounts, and those of other prominent people or organizations, are verified by a blue checked badge next to their names, similar to the way Twitter identifies verified accounts.
TikTok has no shortage of music, comedy and fashion, not to mention the adorable puppies and kittens you've come to expect on the internet. And yes, you'll find people trying to promote a cause or business. AARP plans to launch its own #fyp, i.e., “for you page,” in the near future.
TikTok has the stigma of being only for young kids doing funny dance videos, but it has truly transformed into something much bigger, “not only because the content on the platform has diversified to include something for everyone now, but most importantly because of its discovery algorithm,” says Shark Tank star Daymond John, 52, who has 129,500 followers on the platform.
TikTok users by age
More than 1 in 10 TikTok users are older adults, as of March 2021.
- 10 to 19 years old, 25%
- 20 to 29, 22.4%
- 30 to 39, 21.7%
- 40 to 49, 20.3%
Source: App Ape via Statista
"On other platforms, you need to build an audience to really get reach or put a lot of money in advertising,” John says. “But with TikTok, if you have a video that people like, that video could be seen by millions of people regardless of your follower count."
You can browse through a collection of silly but generally fun streamed videos, many found under the aptly named “#OddlySatisfying” hashtag, which has 2.5 million followers. As with any public platform, of course, you'll also likely come across content that will leave you aghast, including suggestive or foul language, or political views that don't match your own.