May is Older Americans Month, or so proclaimed President Gerald Ford in 1976. It’s the month that the nation is supposed to honor all the past and present contributions made by its senior citizens. Since I’ve already wasted 15 days in not acknowledging the greatness of my cohorts, I thought I’d use this blog to pay tribute to a particular segment of my generation — the Senior Grifter, or stated in a friendlier way, the Senior Influencer.
Yes, it appears that my age group has discovered Instagram. Ergo, becoming an “influencer” on social media is no longer just a young person’s game. Older adults, particularly women, have discovered that age is not a barrier to people with no particular talent being able to acquire thousands and thousands of followers. All you need is a gimmick and the willingness to sometimes make a fool of yourself. And, oh yes, the ability to convince people that if you do what they tell you to do, then your life can be as wonderful as theirs.
In case you’ve been asleep, let me give you some examples. Notorious among the younger influencers is the Kardashian/Jenner clan. Can they sing? Do they tap dance, act, or even play the ukelele? No. None of the above. And yet they have been wildly successful at marketing themselves as lifestyle gurus, and beauty experts. They get paid millions for endorsing products to millions of gullible followers.
Wait. What? You mean to say you haven’t heard of Huda Kattan, Jeffree Star, Jordan Lipscome, Sophia & Cinzia, whose charmed lives are all about fashion, travel, fitness, and promoting gorgeous while looking absurd. And just a side note: a particular travel influencer got caught not really being there! So much for authenticity.
You can watch their videos on your own time. Right now I want to turn to the real honorees of my current essay – the older folks who have been labeled the “Granfluencers.”
What better place to begin than with 92-year-old Helen Ruth Elam, known as baddiewinkle on her platform. For 10 years she’s been looking absolutely ridiculous in flamboyant feather boas, overly large shades, and skimpy red dresses. But hey, who am I to judge? She’s laughing all the way to the bank with sponsorships from Amazon, Canada Dry, LG, and Svedka Vodka. But who the hell are her over 3 million followers and why? I pose the same question for the rest of this list.
Then there’s 68-year-old Lyn Slater, who, to her credit become an accidental icon because she was caught dressing, not ridiculously, but fashionably. So, hey, why not give up your teaching job, wear ripped jeans, and make social influencing your career?
And how about a shout-out for 73-year-old Jenny Kee whose requisite oversized eye glasses, shaved hair style, and mismatched prints have earned her the spotlight in Instagram stardom.
Let’s not forget the gorgeous Grece Ghanem with her plunging necklines.
And last but not least, there is Joan MacDonald, who actually has something to offer. Rather than flaunting glitz and glamour, Joan, at the age of 75, is an exercise guru. Her Instagram exercise videos have more than 35,000 likes. She’ll lead you through a tough workout, and at the end, while you’re panting, she’ll casually mention the manufacturer of the outfit she’s wearing. You go girl!
Let’s face it. Celebrity has always been used to sell. Actors and sports figures get paid to endorse products all the time and have been doing so forever. But the rise of social media marketing has certainly broadened the playing field. So many young hopefuls taking selfies in the hope of becoming a media star.
So during this Older Americans month, kudos to the golden girls who got in on the game. Grifting should not be wasted on the young!