30 Aug 2023DisruptorsAre ‘Granfluencers’ the next big thing in China?

Despite anti-ageing trends growing online, Chinese Granfluencers are showing that getting old isn’t as scary as everyone makes it out to be. Their fun, authentic and lighthearted content resonates with followers their age but also inspires young audiences and proves that life doesn’t end as you age.

Riani KenyonRiani Kenyon is a caffeinated Zillennial who is hopelessly addicted to The Sims 4 and binge-watches her latest anime obsession when she’s not busy bopping to early 2000’s K-pop. Beyond being a nerd, she has worked on initiatives for the UN Academic Impact and the UK Model WHO, and also explored politics while interning at the House of Commons.

The digital landscape is awash with anti-ageing advice ranging from glass skin tips to anti-wrinkle straws, suggesting that tapping into the fountain of youth is key for those that want to remain young and on-trend.

TikTok’s viral ‘aged’ filter kickstarted debates around ageing, with some audiences frantically grabbing their gua shas and retinoids while others look forward to meeting their future selves and growing old with a loved one.

But there's a growing sentiment among audiences of all ages that perhaps ageing isn’t as bad as it's made out to be, and embracing growing old gracefully can counteract negative attitudes towards the generational divide.

"It's exciting to hear that some people are interested in pushing back on anti-ageing marketing, but it's really important that we consider our behaviours when we are doing that because pro-ageing language means nothing if it is not met with pro-ageing behaviour," explained Jessica DeFino, beauty writer and author of The Unpublishable, a Substack newsletter which critically examines the beauty industry.

However, some creators are going out of their way to intentionally promote pro-ageing techniques that shift the way people think about what it means to grow old. And who is this cohort of creators exactly? Well, that’d be ‘Granfluencers’ in China who celebrate the ageing process through thought-provoking and entertaining content.

For example, Wansho Laundry in Taiwan garnered significant hype online because the two pensioner-age owners of the laundromat wore outfits consisting of forgotten clothing customers hadn't collected – showing age is just a number when it comes to style. Their joyful posts highlight the audience appetite for content that spans ages.

And Glamma Beijing is a group of women in their 70s who show that Older Adults can lead fashionable and healthy lifestyles, easily keeping pace with their younger counterparts.

Not to be outdone, Ting Ma’s TikTok bio says it all – “My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them? This is 53! #Proaging”. You can guarantee that her 160,000 followers agree. "At the beginning, I wanted to raise awareness that I'm not invisible and that we should celebrate a woman's life," said Ma.  "I'm happy I can help young people feel hopeful about aging because society has put so much pressure and unrealistic expectations on women."

With less of a focus on family life amid declining birth rates, older people in China have more time to kill so they’re focusing on themselves and their hobbies. This has seen the proportion of Older Adults in the region increase their Internet usage from 4.8% in 2010 to 42% in December 2020.

However, while Older Adults in the region embrace their age and increase their digital literacy skills, Granfluencers are still prone to social media setbacks such as perpetuating aesthetic stereotypes while ageing.

"While it might be well-intentioned to make aging chic, it's actually enacting a lot of the same behaviors as anti-aging, but in an equal opposite manner,” warned Jessica DeFino. "The point is not to make aging cool or trendy, but to allow people to look like they look without having to feel on trend. Aging isn't a trend. It's an inevitability."

Despite this, it seems this shift to seeking refreshing viewpoints and experiences from older generations could pivot expectations and narratives around becoming older. Granfluencers are flipping the switch and piquing consumer curiosity by showing what it means to grow old on their terms, something that can trickle down to audiences of all ages.