His 15-year-old granddaughter, Brooke Paintain, thought Allington — beloved by his family for his goofy nature — would be an instant hit on TikTok, so she set him up with an account. It features the two of them dancing in 15-second snippets to Drake’s “Toosie Slide” and performing other viral dances that have exploded during the pandemic.
Downloads of the app have skyrocketed in recent weeks, now with more than a billion video views per day. But the app is proving to be more than just endless entertainment for young people: TikTok has unexpectedly emerged as a tool around the world for older adults to stay active and connected to their children and grandchildren while in isolation.
“TikTok gets me out of my chair and moving,” said Allington, who moved in with Brooke and her parents in Staffordshire, England, after his wife died five years ago. “Brooke and I have always been good mates, but this is just so much fun for us.”
Allington has gotten so popular, in fact, that he was recently selected to be featured in a new TikTok commercial.
Allington said it gives him and Brooke common ground, and an excuse to laugh.
The same goes for Jenny Krupa, 88, and her grandson Skylar Krupa, 20, who started making TikTok compilations together at their farm in Alberta, Canada, last summer.
Proudly written on Krupa’s TikTok bio is: “I’m 88 and probably have more followers than you.”
And she’s probably not wrong — since August 2019, @its_j_dog has accumulated 1.3 million followers.
Another TikTok user, Shelby Hoefling, 28, said she and her grandmother Patricia Hoefling, 94, have always danced together. Now, they do it virtually, Shelby Hoefling in Falls Church, Va., and her grandmother in Boiling Springs, Pa.
“Learning these dances takes a surprising amount of brainpower,” Shelby Hoefling said. “Nanny is actually better than I am at remembering the moves.”
Hoefling, author of the children’s book “Grandma’s in the Phone!” — inspired by her own virtual relationship with her grandmother — said she and her Nanny have been meeting on FaceTime to do yoga and learn TikTok dances together several times a week during the pandemic. The goal: keep Nanny alert and active, and their connection strong.
Despite regularly using the app, most of these grandparents said they have no idea how TikTok actually works.
Still, it’s a welcome respite from an otherwise lonely and troubled world.
“When we learn the dances, we laugh hysterically,” Hoefling said. “It instantly makes the bad days better.”
Alyssa McCarl, the wellness director at a retirement community in Newton, Iowa, said TikTok has done the same for the seniors at Park Centre.
“We’re always trying to get our residents moving,” said McCarl, who teaches fitness classes and plans daily activities at the retirement community. “But covid-19 has made that very difficult.”
Before the pandemic, McCarl, 26, vowed never to download TikTok, as she thought it was exclusively for teenagers. But after a colleague showed her a video of seniors learning a dance, she broke that promise to herself — and she’s glad she did.
McCarl and her team of instructors, who were searching for creative ways to keep residents active and upbeat during the pandemic, decided to try TikTok.
McCarl is now teaching popular routines to residents individually in the retirement home hallway. She then compiles the various dance videos and shares the finished product with the residents’ families, which are awed to see their parents and grandparents crumping to Wiz Khalifa’s “Something New” and dabbing to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”
“They really love it,” McCarl said, “and so do their families.”
Sandra Prendergast, 75, a resident at Park Centre, said learning the TikTok dances provides her with pure joy.
“My family is amazed by my moves,” she said.
Other families around the world are also bonding with loved ones through TikTok.
Four grandchildren in North Queensland, Australia, are using the app to stay connected with their Nana and Pop, who live on the opposite end of the continent.
“My parents love it,” said Ellen Gulson, the children’s mother. “They’re desperate for connection right now, especially with my kids.”
Since the grandchildren can’t be with their grandparents, they have set up a video exchange. Gulson records her family doing a TikTok dance and sends it to her parents, who — after a few glasses of wine — send a video back, showcasing their own rendition of the dance.
“This has totally lifted their spirits,” Gulson said of her parents, Susan and Peter Braine.
The kids love it, too. “They watch the videos of their grandparents over and over again, and they look forward to the next one,” she said.
Grandparent-grandchild TikTok ensembles aren’t an entirely new phenomenon.
Kevin Droniak, 22, started making TikToks with his grandmother in November. Since then, 90-year-old Lillian Droniak — otherwise known as @grandma_droniak — has amassed more than 105,000 followers on TikTok.
Droniak’s grandson, who manages her burgeoning TikTok account, regularly delivers groceries to her, and when the weather permits, the pair make TikTok videos together on her patio in Shelton, Conn., six feet apart. He said it helps keep his grandmother mentally and physically sharp, but the best benefit is being silly together.
“We’ve gotten a lot closer,” Kevin Droniak said. “We have always had a close friendship, but doing TikTok has made us best friends.”
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