CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. — Robert Reeves, 78, spends most days lounging by the pool, taking within the low-desert solar along with his pals and neighbors. The 4 of them discuss what’s new — restoration from a current corrective foot surgical procedure, some persistent irritation points — and document movies for social media, the place they’ve amassed tens of millions of followers because the Old Gays.
On a blistering afternoon earlier this month, Jessay Martin, 68, headed throughout the road for the standard poolside confab, stopping to seize a Bud Light Seltzer Pineapple from the fridge on his manner out to the patio. There, he sat down in a stuffed armchair beside a well-endowed wood sculpture of the male kind and rubbed sunscreen into his bald pate because the group mentioned the day’s video idea: an outfit transformation set to the rapper Jack Harlow’s single “First Class.”
“I need to wear my pretty underwear for this,” Mr. Martin stated. “I need to have my ruffles on my rump.”
It wasn’t like the primary drag video they did, Bill Lyons, 78, stated as he took a sip from his milk chocolate Ensure. He raised his eyebrows, then stated in a stage whisper: “Bob didn’t wear any underwear.”
“Oh, no,” Mick Peterson, 66, stated below his breath.
Mr. Martin laughed and stated: “Well, he had on a full skirt!” Mr. Reeves, the Bob in query, widened his eyes and performed harmless, looking on the shadows of palm timber glistening in his cerulean pool.
The Old Gays have been operating not on time. They nonetheless needed to study a dance and movie a usable take earlier than Mr. Martin’s Tina Turner cowl live performance that night. “My music is all I’ve ever wanted to do, but these videos are like a big dessert in my life,” he stated. “I live for them, I really do.”
Most of the TikTok influencers residing in so-called collab homes — mansions the place they movie content material collectively — are barely sufficiently old to legally signal a lease. But the Old Gays and their fellow “grandfluencers” are proof that recording viral movies below one roof isn’t reserved for the younger. And whereas these senior influencers might very a lot be performing for the digital camera, they’re additionally sharing a brand new imaginative and prescient for what it means to reside meaningfully with age.
By 2030, 70 million folks within the United States can be over 65 years previous, based on census knowledge; for the primary time, the nation could have extra seniors than kids. Most older Americans reside alone or with solely a associate, based on analysis from Pew. And they wish to keep that manner: A current AARP survey discovered that 86 % of folks over 65 wish to age in place reasonably than in a care dwelling.
But for individuals who have misplaced mobility, the rising value of dwelling care might be prohibitive. Even those that can handle with out assist face elevated dangers of loneliness and despair. Rather than rely on youthful kin or paid strangers for care and companionship, why not flip to one another?
“As you get into old age, moving into a nursing home is what’s expected, and many older people buy into that plan,” Mr. Reeves stated. “What we’re doing, through the strength of our friendships and our mutual support, is changing the course of the way one lives their life.”
By the time the Old Gays began posting on TikTok, in December 2020, the 4 males already had half a century of friendship between them. Mr. Reeves and Mr. Lyons met in San Francisco within the Nineteen Eighties. In 2013, Mr. Peterson answered Mr. Reeves’s Craigslist advert for a room in a gay-friendly, nudist-friendly dwelling. In 2014, Mr. Martin moved right into a home throughout the road.
A number of years later, a youthful neighbor, Ryan Yezak, 35, who’d gotten to chatting with the boys throughout his Saturday morning canine walks, recommended they movie a number of movies for Grindr, the place Mr. Yezak labored. Soon, although, the boys have been able to take their abilities to a much bigger platform.
Today, they’ve 7.1 million followers on TikTok and some hundred thousand on Instagram, amongst them Rihanna, Jessica Alba, Rosie O’Donnell, Drew Barrymore and Lance Bass. They meet up by the pool every weekday round 10:30 a.m., rehearsing and capturing movies that Mr. Yezak edits and posts.
For the outfit transformation, the boys stripped right down to their good underwear, grabbed gold cardboard letters (spelling G-L-A-M) and lined up by the pool. Between takes, they wore wide-brimmed hats to stave off the 95-degree warmth.
“People like the underwear videos a lot, for some reason,” Mr. Yezak stated, ready for his iPhone to chill down so he may movie.
Mr. Lyons stated, “It’s because we’re half-nude!” He was carrying low-rise black briefs and loafers, and holding up a bedazzled G.
Though the web does reward the risqué, the attraction of the Old Gays goes past shock worth to one thing a lot sweeter. When Mr. Reeves has a physician’s appointment, Mr. Lyons drives him; Mr. Martin covers his eyes at raunchy feedback from Mr. Peterson; Mr. Yezak and Mr. Lyons get in tiffs about how clear the pool is.
“Yes, we have our family moments,” Mr. Martin stated. “But I genuinely care for this little unit.”
The Role of a Lifetime
Adi Azran, 27, a content material producer at Flighthouse Media, a studio that makes TikTok movies, felt like he’d reached a inventive epiphany final June when he confirmed his colleague Brandon Chase, 25, a video by @ourfilipinograndma, through which stated grandma delivered a pickup line to the tune of 12.3 million views.
“I was like, ‘Dude — old people,’” Mr. Azran stated. “And he saw the vision.”
Over the following few months, Mr. Azran and Mr. Chase plotted out a scripted sequence about a number of retirees residing below one roof and forged the roles from a whole lot of audition reels; if the success of “The Golden Girls” or “Grace and Frankie” was any indicator, that they had a success of their arms. But the plan modified after their first shoot with the actors. “We called them and told them, ‘We’re throwing that all out the window,’” Mr. Chase stated. “‘You guys can just be yourselves from here on out.’”
So, what do you get once you give six elders and two younger producers a hoop mild and a platform on TikTok? The Retirement House’s movies are extra foolish than surprising: lip-syncing trending songs, enjoying sensible jokes on one another. And although the scenes are nonetheless a bit scripted, they’re a departure from the actors’ earlier roles.
“I’ve been acting for 30 years, and I’ve done a handful of stuff,” stated Monterey Morrissey, 71. “And here I am doing 10 seconds on an iPhone, and three and a half million people watch it.” (The group has 3.6 million followers on TikTok and 184,000 on Instagram.)
Gaylynn Baker, 85, began her performing profession at 19, when she moved from small-town Texas to New York City and joined the refrain on “The Steve Allen Show” within the Nineteen Fifties. Sixty-five years later, she’s lastly discovered her massive break, performing goofy stunts for six-second movies watched on smartphones all over the world, at a time in life when most individuals now not wish to be working.
“The irony, of course, is that we’re in Retirement House, but I don’t have anything to retire from,” she stated. “I’m having a great time.”
Rewriting the Script for Old Age
On a current Thursday on the Retirement House — a Hollywood set rented by the hour — there have been two shoots going on. In the kitchen, Chuck Lacey, 70, and Jerry Boyd, 76, ate miracle berries earlier than tasting an array of bitter meals on digital camera, reacting to lemon slices and Warheads made candy. (Mr. Boyd, to digital camera: “You sweet on me? Take one of these pills, and you’ll be sour on me.”)
On the again patio, Patti Yulish, 81, carried out a rap as Mr. Azran translated web slang for her. (“Bubbe,” he stated, utilizing her character title, “do you know what ‘sneaky links’ means?”)
The foolish group antics of the Retirement House are a welcome counterpoint to tales of remoted elders quietly diminishing in nursing houses throughout the pandemic. “You see so many stories of older people that are not happy, because as you get older, you lose friends, you lose relatives, you don’t have people to share your life with,” stated Reatha Grey, 72. “We’re actually building shared memories together — and it’s on videotape.”
In some ways, Mr. Azran and Mr. Chase act as stand-ins for Retirement House’s younger viewers. They’re producers, however they’re additionally 20-somethings who went on a Virgin Voyages cruise to the Bahamas with a bunch of seniors. “All my grandparents live in Israel, so I’ve never spent much time with older folks,” Mr. Azran stated. “Now I’m filling that void a little bit, realizing that they’re like us, just a little bit more experienced.”
The TikTok account has instructed its followers “that they don’t have to take the usual route into being old,” Ms. Baker stated. “Maybe it’s time for us to start getting older in a different way.”
Retirement House, for all its artifice, presents a model of growing older full of novelty and lively curiosity. “It’s not a home, where you need care and somebody to cook for you and bring you your pills,” Ms. Yulish stated. “This is a group of older people who are perfectly capable of doing everything on their own, and having a lot of fun while they’re doing it.”
‘Have the Best Be the Last’
At the identical time, over 1,000,000 seniors within the United States reside in nursing houses — and a few of them are going viral on TikTok, too.
“At first, it was just a little prank,” stated Lou Scott, 78, who lives at Burr Ridge Senior Living in Burr Ridge, Ill. “Then it went viral, and I thought, Hey, maybe I have a hidden talent.” He’s a daily visitor on the Spectrum Retirement TikTok (93,000 followers), which is produced by an organization known as Spectrum Retirement Communities and options residents from its senior residing services throughout the nation.
Mr. Scott recorded his first video proper after a month alone in his condo, and the response astounded him: 1000’s of likes and feedback from viewers asking him to be their grandfather and hoping to be like him after they’re older. “It’s brought people to me,” he stated. “When you get inquisitive, it keeps your mind working, your body working.”
The Spectrum Retirement movies provide a extra modest imaginative and prescient of growing older in communal residing than their Hollywood counterparts do — sensible jokes in place of palm-dotted patio events; fluorescent lights reasonably than ring lights. But they articulate the identical profound message. “People are still people when they live in a senior living home,” Mr. Scott stated.
Ms. Baker hopes to indicate the humanity and pleasure of growing older in her Retirement House movies. “Being lucky enough to have the last chapter of your life be the best chapter of your life?” she stated. “If you have any say-so, for God’s sake, have the best be the last.”
That sentiment absolutely guides the Old Gays, 4 survivors of the AIDS epidemic who constructed chosen households solely to look at them disappear. “I never imagined I would make it to my 70s,” stated Mr. Reeves, who came upon he was H.I.V. constructive in 1987. “At that time, I was watching the slow destruction of my whole circle of friends, and I fully believed I was going to be dead in a year or two.”
Thirty-five years later, Mr. Reeves sees himself as a voice for his decimated era. The Old Gays stated they’re usually stopped by younger homosexual followers who thank them for displaying what their very own golden years may appear like. And by way of the account, Mr. Martin linked with the granddaughter of his deceased former lover.
“She called me up and wanted me to be her granddad,” Mr. Martin stated. “It’s been so healing for me to talk about him.” Their misplaced pals and companions usually come up of their each day conversations across the pool; their shared expertise as survivors fuels the marvel and delight of their movies.
They have no real interest in abiding by the unstated guidelines of growing older, tastefully fading away to make room for the following era.
“We’ve got our own plans for our lives,” Mr. Reeves stated. “And by golly, we’re going to live.”