Learning > Inspiration

From grandparents to social media sweethearts

Seniors in the US, Brazil and China make their presence felt online with help from the young

Nilanjana Sengupta on 07 Apr 2019

The Straits Times


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A new rap video, called Nani (Hindi for grandmother), hit the Internet earlier this month. In it, India-born celebrity cook and actor Madhur Jaffrey, 85, dons a yellow beret, red lipstick and white wig and lip-syncs to lyrics such as "85-years-gold" and "the best damn Nani that you ever done seen".


The rap by Queens emcee Mr Cardamom, whose real name is Zohran Mamdani, has close to 40,000 views and pays tribute to his maternal grandmother Praveen Nair, a former social worker in Delhi.


While the video is making news for showcasing octogenarian Jaffrey rocking a new role and for the song's colourful lyrics, it is also being noted as an homage from a grandson to his grandmother.


"She has gone against the grain in so many different ways," Mamdani told The New York Times.


"We need more blokes writing homages to their grannies!" writes YouTube user dervlaann. "Bow down to your Nani, indeed. Kudos!"says YouTube user ortem000.


Who says the Internet is just for the young?


Across the globe, there are increasing numbers of seniors making their presence felt online, with the help of their grandchildren.


One grandmother teams up with her grandson to make hilarious YouTube videos in the United States.


A grandfather, who is based in Brazil, learnt how to use Instagram so he could connect with his grandchildren living in South Korea and the US.


Another grandmother has become an Internet sensation in China after her granddaughter posted videos of her eating in a carefree manner despite her age.


These seniors have been trending online with commenters enthusing about their energetic online presence, ability to embrace a new medium and for just being cute.


Comments such as "Grandma is so cute" and "I love your granny" are common for videos that American social media star Ross Smith puts up featuring him and his grandmother Pauline Kana.


The 92-year-old has been appearing in videos with Smith since 2013, and over various platforms including Vine, Instagram and YouTube.


They have 5.2 million followers on Facebook, 2.6 million followers on Instagram and the Ross Smith YouTube channel has more than 400,000 subscribers.


"Grandma heckles bodyguards" and "Don't steal grandma's Halloween candies" are just two videos that have crossed 6 million views.


A grandma-granddaughter pair is also setting the Internet alive in China, where a 98-year-old former traditional Chinese medicine practitioner demonstrates her uncontrolled love for spicy food and Coca Cola during mealtimes.


According to her granddaughter, whose name is given as Cai by Chinese media reports, her grandmother's positive attitude is the secret to her longevity. The 63 short videos she posted on her grandmother on TikTok, also known as Douyin in China, have chalked up over 4 million likes, China Daily reports.


Over in Brazil, Grandpa Chan's Instagram page, "Drawings for my grandchildren", has more than 340,000 followers.


The 77-year-old, whose real name is Chan Jae-lee, acquainted himself with Instagram despite initial hesitation so that he could post drawings for his grandkids now aged 14, 15 and four, and living in Bucheon and New York.


"For old folks like me, the Internet can be very intimidating. And in order to use it properly, one must learn its capabilities and functions," he told Forth online magazine in an interview last month.


"Learning Instagram in the beginning was so hard, I almost said I can't do it. But my son's perseverance moved me, and finally after many hours when I succeeded in uploading my drawing, I felt a great sense of accomplishment," he added.


What started as a family project - Grandpa Chan's wife writes the captions for his drawings and his daughter helps manage his Facebook page - soon became a career as netizens began ordering prints of his drawings.


However, as more elderly people get on to the Internet, whether it is to be in tune with changing times, to stay in touch with families or because they are lonely, there is the growing risk of them falling victims to online scams or fake news.


Just last month, the US Justice Department announced the largest-ever coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases involving more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimised more than two million Americans, most of them elderly.


In Singapore, there are courses to help seniors adapt to a digital lifestyle that help them make e-payments or use technology to remain connected in a safe manner.


There are risks but as long as there are grandchildren and children helping and egging their elderly relatives on, grandparents can continue to break the Internet with one cute moment after another.


After all, love and bonding can be great teachers and motivators.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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