The caption sounds a bit like an oxymoron but in less than three months an 87-year-old grandfather has gathered a huge following on the video-sharing app TikTok, despite the fact that most of its users are teenagers.
for a long time he was unaware of his growing fame, explains Chris Stokel-Walker.
The video below summed up the exasperation many elderly members of society have felt. Joe Allington, from Lichfield, walked the aisles of his local supermarket, eyes agog at the empty shelves he saw before him.
He returned home downcast, with no shopping.
This was before the government introduced strict social distancing rules and Allington began self-isolating. He didn’t really need to go shopping as he’s been living with his daughter and her family for the last four-and-a-half years, but the 14-second-long performance hit a nerve and has now been viewed more than 42 million times on the shortform video sharing app, TikTok.
This is Allington’s biggest success since he started posting on TikTok three months ago as Poppa Joe. To his surprise, he’s picked up 1.5 million followers on a platform generally regarded as the preserve of teenagers.
“I don’t think old people generally look at TikTok very much,” admits Allington. “It’s all youngsters – seven and-eight-year-olds.”
Like many older people encountering smartphone apps for the first time, he has his granddaughter to thank.
Allington’s youngest granddaughter, Brooke Paintain, 15 – an active TikToker with more than 65,000 followers – first uploaded videos during the 2018 Christmas holidays, months after the app merged with lipsyncing platform Musical.ly.
“She was doing all these weird dances that kids do on TikTok, and trying to get me lipsyncing,” says Allington. He wasn’t interested at that point. It was only in January this year that he was finally persuaded to dance in a video.
Allington also featured in one of Brooke’s videos on 23 January. As she danced around him she directed her followers to his TikTok profile, asking them to get him up to 10,000 followers.
Within three weeks, he had more than 30,000.
“I just don’t know why I’m popular,” he explains. “I’ve never been popular like that in my life.”
A petrol tanker driver for decades, after leaving school at the age of 14 in the late 1940s, Allington progressed to work in transport management. He retired at the age of 65, and became the family clown to his daughter, Wendy Paintain, 54, and his granddaughters.
When they suggested he join TikTok, it was a natural fit. “I’ve found my second childhood, you know,” he says.
He combines high drama and sadness with a quirky side, making light of serious situations. In one video, he dances to classic song Oops in front of a green-screened image of him lying in bed after a massive heart attack in 2019.
Another running theme of videos is his obsession with donuts – banned from his diet after his heart attack – and his attempts to eat them.