We typically expect social media personalities to be in their 20s or younger, and though many of them are, older content creators are also carving out dedicated followings online.
Studies show that people who are older are often portrayed as inept with technology and out of touch. In reality, according to CBS, influencers who are grandparents or in that age bracket are making a killing online, challenging ageist stereotypes, and inspiring others to get more creative. Older content creators provide better representation of their demographic—and younger fans are paying attention too.
Women especially face harsher consequences for aging, despite the fact that it is simply a natural aspect of life. Media representation of successful, happy older women is scant, and youthfulness is often emphasized. Ageism also presents itself at work and in personal relationships, where women are judged for their appearances or life choices. The message is clear: women should fear aging. However, older female influencers are challenging this notion.
Salina Williams is a 51-year-old influencer who began taking Instagram more seriously in 2021 after using the app for seven years. Williams still works a day job at the Department of Mental Health in New York, where she’s been an employee for the past 21 years, and posts pictures of her fashionable outfits on a daily basis. Recently, she began posting YouTube videos of her staycations, shopping hauls, and fun content in hopes of showing women in her demographic in a positive light.
A mother of three, Williams’ eldest daughter encouraged her to put more effort into growing her following. Williams started to post mostly pictures of her outfits with a focus on things she enjoys. She’s a major fan of brands such as Zara, and her Instagram feed displays bold colors, jumpsuits in fun prints, and silhouette experiments such as using corsets over airy blouses.
“I wear things that are relatable, I think to any age, and I think that’s what comes across,” Williams says. “I always liked fashion, and I just wear what I want to wear.”
Ageism is certainly something Williams has thought about. “After a while you become like an invisible group,” she says. Thankfully, her posts have inspired younger women as they prepare for life after their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. In fact, some of her younger followers are inspired by her work because of her age. Williams often gets messages saying, “I want to be like that when I’m 50” and “I want to dress like that.”
“I think that is the reason that I’m having success right now,” she says. “Women are taught to fear aging. We’re taught after a certain time that life is kind of over. That whatever you were going to do or wanted to be, you should have done it already. And so now that I’m very much in menopause, that I’m supposed to basically like sit in a corner and grow a beard. This is what we’ve been taught growing up that you are no longer in your prime. And so for the younger ladies that are coming of age, they’re like ‘this is amazing.’”
Social media is a time-consuming job, which can cause friction with influencers’ loved ones, but Williams says her children are supportive.
Kay Patterson, known on YouTube as The Organized Soprano, always enjoyed organizing spaces and has been an organizing consultant for nine years. She started her channel in 2013 and had hesitations about starting her channel due to her age. Now 45 years old, she’s cultivated a dedicated following in the organizing space thanks to her helpful videos and warm presence. Initially, Patterson made a marketing video for her clients, uploaded it to YouTube, and left it public.
“I didn’t think anybody would watch it. And a bunch of people did watch,” she says.
After building her organizing YouTube channel, she began a separate channel for gaming, KayDaisy. Boasting over 22,000 subscribers, she was surprised that people were interested in her adventures playing Animal Crossing. Though it’s true that having a social media presence is rife with negativity and trolls, Patterson has found a receptive audience.
“The nice surprise has been how welcoming an audience can be, no matter what your age, race, gender identification, is if you resonate with them,” she says.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Violeta Zuvela first modeled when she was young. However, she left the industry for a while, had her five children, and returned to modeling in her 50s. She is now 56 years old and has both a successful modeling career and Instagram presence, boasting over 31,000 followers.
Like other content creators, Zuvela has dealt with ups and downs, but the pros outweigh the cons. “The most enjoyable part for me was women being interested in what I’m wearing, how I’m wearing it, and my style,” she says. Zuvela encourages women to find their personal style on whatever budget, to express themselves, and not to let age or other conditions get in the way of their dreams.
The world of social media exposes all content creators and influencers to trolls and critics, but Williams, Patterson, and Zuvela mention that their experiences on social media have mostly been positive.
In the creator economy, even some people over the age of 30 might feel “too old” to start a YouTube channel, TikTok, or other social media page. But Williams, Patterson, and Zuvela feel this doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, they all concurred that people should do what they want at any age and even offered a few tips.
For those who want to build their social media presence, Zuvela says, “Be yourself. Be realistic. And don’t worry about comments that will hurt you and people that put these comments on because that’s probably one of the hardest things I found when I started.”
Patterson says age can actually be an advantage for older creators. “You have a lot more life experience,” she shares. “I feel like older people are willing to take more time to learn skills, and get good at things so that they make fewer mistakes going forward.”
Williams encourages people who want to try creating online content to just do it, even if they’re scared. “There’s a lot of money to be made, because companies have to advertise,” she says. “Suppose you’re 60 years old, you have gray hair, and you still like hip hop, people are gonna love you. Say you’re 60 years old, and you still want to wear a crop top and bake brownies, people are gonna love you. So just do it, you’re gonna find your people, and those people are going to be there for you.”
Older content creators also don’t need to worry much about their audiences. Younger people like to see engaging content by adults they can relate to. Older creators also show them what they can look forward to in the future. Zuvela, Patterson, and Williams are proof that you can succeed at social media at any age.