Senior influencers, or "granfluencers," are smashing stereotypes and making big bucks as social media sensations
Their moves might be a little slower, but "The Old Gays" — yes, that's their handle — are conquering TikTok with more than 5.5 million followers.
"We're proud to be old gays," said Bill Lyons, one of the four members of the group. "We all have fun, we all laugh, and it's just turned out to be just an absolutely wonderful foursome."
They're part of a growing wave of seniors inspiring and enlightening their much younger fans from TikTok to Instagram. These surprising social media stars are becoming powerful content creators and influencers — affectionately called "granfluencers."
CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas met several of these tech savvy super-agers, who are spreading positivity, smashing stereotypes and making money as social media sensations.
One of those is 68-year-old Lyn Slater. Known on social media as "Accidental Icon," this former social justice professor is using fashion to fight stereotypes about aging.
"That was the reason I did become popular and I did become successful, because I was conveying this attitude, 'Look at how cool I am and I have gray hair and wrinkles, and I'm not going to let anybody make me be invisible,'" Slater said. "It involves getting out of your comfort zone. For me, if I don't keep growing, that's when I'm going to wither up."
Marketing strategist Rahel Marsie-Hazen has helped companies connect with granfluencers, presenting growth opportunities for both the seniors and established brands looking to expand their markets.
"People are really craving authenticity," she said. "So people of all ages are really looking for real people that they can connect with online."
Younger people feel "really inspired" when they see granfluencers living their lives, dating, traveling and dancing, Marsie-Hazen said.
"The time is ripe for seniors who've been largely overlooked," she said.
And the new partnerships can mean an economic boon for seniors. Senior influencers can make anywhere between $50 to tens of thousands of dollars for just one social media post, Marsie-Hazen said.
"I probably worked about eight hours, and I made my yearly salary of a professor," Slater said.
Another granfluencer is Lonni Pike, who goes by "Gray Hair and Tattoos." Her confidence and positivity have earned her close to a million followers on TikTok.
"I am 57 years old and I still get told that I'm going to regret getting my tattoos. I mean, come on!" Pike said.
The tattooed influencer said it's inspiring to hear from young moms who appreciate what she does.
"They're like, 'I no longer fear growing old,'" Pike said. "You don't have to fear age. I'm the same person at 57 that I was at 25. I just have more tattoos and I drive a better car.
"Life is too short to not be the best us we can be," she said.
The fearsome foursome who call themselves "The Old Gays" have been friends for years. Ranging in age from 65 to 78, they've racked up some 750 million views.
"The kids say, 'I want these guys to be my grandpas.' They have a great deal of respect for us, and that's just absolutely heartwarming to me," Lyons said.
"It was harder being young, because you're worried about what people think of you, and at 68 I say: This is it, baby. Just be yourself," said Jessay Martin, another member of the group.
For them, the term "influencer" runs deeper than their social media stats. Two survived the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and are living with HIV.
"I lost 80% of my friends in San Francisco," Lyons said. "And this pandemic right now reminds me tremendously of what was happening when my friends were dropping dead right and left."
For these new social media stars, the money is good, but better than that is a chance to share their joy and just be themselves.
"I like to quote David Bowie," said Slater, "because he says, 'aging is when you become the person that you always should have been.'"
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