Grey-haired stars on short video sites spread positivity better than the young

By Li Qiao and Sun Haoran Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/16 19:42:48

Hu Hui, who is over 80 years old, livestreams an introduction to a tourist destination called Xizha in Tongxiang county, Wuzhen in East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG

Senior citizens' short videos of their daily lives win over millions of viewers

Many viewers are drawn by positive attitude to life shown by the country's elderly population

More elderly people making an income through short videos could tackle China's aging population problem

A 60-year-old bodybuilder, who has a perfectly lean and muscular body with a well-defined six-pack, is doing pull-ups on a horizontal bar. 

The man called Liu Sheng, who is an internet celebrity, has gained nearly one million followers on Kuaishou, a popular short video platform in China, with an account called "Zui Chao Liu Lao Tou (most fashionable old man Liu)." 

Recently, short videos of senior vloggers have gone viral on video sharing apps, such as Douyin, known as TikTok overseas, and Kuaishou, and they are now becoming much more visible on such apps. Liu is only one of them.

"My videos are recorded by my daughter," said Liu. "Because I have been working out for more than 40 years, my daughter hopes to show my physique to more people," he told the Global Times.

"I hope that I can show a positive side of the elderly and let young people know that we're just as good as them," Liu noted.

Screenshot of one of the videos posted by "Zui Chao Liu Lao Tou (most fashionable old man Liu)" on Kuaishou on May 7. Photo: Screenshot of Kuaishou

Doing it for fun

Gan Yongjun's father, 62-year-old, is another internet celebrity from Guilin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. He has a Kuaishou account named "Shanmu Dashu (Shanmu uncle)" with almost two million followers.

"I am the one who records my father's videos," said Gan. "He used to be a carpenter, but quit his job when machine production became widespread."

Gan said that because video sharing apps have become so popular, he started to shoot videos of his father doing manual work, such as making wooden models of cars, airplanes, TVs and mobile phones, as well as some toys for his grandchildren.

In a video posted on October 5, Gan's father made a heart-shaped jewelry box from an ordinary wooden board using only traditional woodworking tools, such as saws, hoes, and hammers and did not use a single screw or any electrical instruments.

The video has been played over 240,000 times and drew more than 13,000 likes on Kuaishou as of Wednesday.

"I was only doing this for fun and I never thought my father's videos could gain so many fans on the internet," Gan noted, adding that most of his father's followers are people between the ages of 10 and 40.

Gan believes the reason his father has become an internet celebrity is because the videos show the reality of older people's lives.

"Most of the seniors in the village just play card games or relax on loungers during their spare time," Gan said. "I hope that we can show a new lifestyle for elderly people."

Clicks mean profits, but a vlogger on Kuaishou surnamed Liu told the Global Times that they normally do not receive remuneration from the platform no matter how many views or likes they received from users. Instead, Liu said the main profits come from the virtual gifts from fans, but refused to reveal the exact number. 

Hu Hui dances with her friends, which she videos and posts online, in Jiaxing, East China's Zhejiang Province in June 2018. Photo: VCG

Sense of optimism

Another online celebrity Sun Yanbo, 64, has been living alone in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, since the death of her husband 10 years ago. She told the Global Times that she loves following senior internet celebrities because she can draw inspiration from the optimism shown by people of her own generation.

Sun loves watching the square dances by "Aunt Dragon" on Kuaishou. "Aunt Dragon," a 67-year-old single woman living in Zunyi, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, whose real name is Wang Xianqun, gained more than 4 million followers across a number of short video platforms thanks to her energetic square dancing style.

"Her dancing conveys happiness and encouragement to me. I am learning from her videos and attempting to join in with square dancing in my community," Sun said, "'Aunt Dragon' is also a single elderly woman, just like me. I have reduced my loneliness and worries about life after following her."

Sun also noted that she is happy because she is able to make more friends through square dancing, traveling and embracing life with her new friends.

However, Sun holds a negative view of online personalities, young or old, who ask their fans for money. "It's getting something for nothing! They just share their daily life. That's not work, why should it bring them money?" Sun asked, confused.

It is not only elderly people who follow these online personalities; young people also enjoy watching the short videos made by older content creators.

Li Shixin, a 28-year-old woman working in Beijing, is a fan of "Uncle Tuocheng," a 62-year-old who has 1.78 million followers on Douyin.

"I admire the positive effort which 'Uncle Tuocheng' makes toward intergenerational communication," Li told the Global Times, adding that "Society always tells the young to understand and take care of the old, so it makes me happy to see an old uncle taking the initiative to get to know the young."

"Uncle Tuocheng" is a retired chef. His short videos on the theme "Trying 100 types of food that young people love" have put him in the spotlight. 

"He asked the salesgirl what grass jelly is, which I think is great. He does not cover up what he doesn't know and is very sincere in his efforts to understand it," Li said.

In one video, he visits Starbucks, a place most elderly people in China would not go to. After wandering around, he walks out and says: "Too expensive for me. I won't drink anything."

"That's exactly what I want to say. A cup of coffee costing 30 yuan ($4.2) is difficult to afford for many young people," Li said, explaining that "Uncle Tuocheng" said what many young people don't dare to.

"Uncle Tuocheng" also serves as an inspiration for Li to get to know and communicate positively with her older colleagues and family members.


Confronting the aging problem

Zhu Wei, a communication researcher at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that the presence and prevalence of older online personalities play a positive role in the re-employment of the elderly and helps China confront the challenge of the coming aging society. 

China had 249 million people above 60 years of age by the end of 2018. How senior citizens live their lives has become a serious concern for the whole of society.

A report released by China's National Bureau of Statistics said China will grow from an adult society to an aged society in just 18 years. 

"Making money is a direct benefit for these older content creators. Beside that, it can inspire and promote growth in the emotional, material and cultural lives of the elderly. Elderly people can make money, gain respect and increase their social status through displaying skills gathered over a lifetime on live broadcasts and short videos, which is a positive way of dealing with an aging society," Zhu said.

Short videos also serve as a channel for highly educated older people to hand down their professional knowledge. Zhu himself learned a lot from a retired primary school teacher about how to educate children.

Less educated content creators from rural areas may post things like how to cook, or how to dry potatoes, which can also attract many fans through its sense of practical everyday life, Zhu explained.

The difference between old and young online personalities is a lack of pretentiousness, he noted, adding that many of the most popular elderly online personalities earn big bucks, but still dress and speak plainly.

In addition to live broadcasts, online personalities also produce advertisements and sell goods. Many young content creators have been found to use live streaming platforms to engage in illegal activities, which gets them banned. However, older people value their accounts much more and study the relevant laws diligently, Zhu said.

Several days ago, Zhu provided training on the law related to Kuaishou. He noticed that "Uncle Benliang," a farmer who has gained more than 10 million followers through his singing, participated and took notes on how to obey the law carefully.

"Elderly online personalities spread positive energy much better than the young," Zhu said.

However, he is worried about young people who attempt to pursue careers in online influencing and content creation, as he feels that attending school and receiving a good education is a better way to get ahead. "After a short time, young people may have to share vulgar content to attract attention when they run out of material," Zhu said.


Newspaper headline: Golden oldies


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