With over 5 million followers on TikTok, Retirement House has officially gone viral, even if most of the account’s cast members didn’t know what the platform was when they got the gig. We chatted with the on-screen talent — and the two producers behind the scenes — about what internet fame has meant to them at this phase of their lives, and how they’ve managed to age oh so gracefully.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Retirement House, a TikTok channel that features six septua- and octogenarians living in something like a parody of a content house for influencers, has taken social media by storm. The account posts a mix of content featuring its senior stars, from scripted sketches to viral dances, music video recreations, and other viral trends.
The idea for the channel came from two producers, Brandon Chase and Adi Azran, who are both in their mid-20s and are content makers at the youth-focused media brand Flighthouse.
“We’d never seen a show on TikTok with like, a cast of characters,” said Azran, who found inspiration when one night he scrolled across a video of someone’s grandma delivering a cheesy pickup line, which had 3 million views. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, what if the cast of characters was all senior citizens?’”
The content game
While the cast of Retirement House doesn’t actually live together in the Los Angeles residence at which they shoot their videos, the cast and crew seems to always be having a great time on set.
“We show up, we laugh for eight hours, then we go home,” said Gaylynn Baker, who plays Mabel. Baker, 86, is a dancer who has performed and taught all her life, and is now famous for dancing on top of tables in Retirement House videos. “How I got lucky enough for this to be one of my last chapters, I don’t even know,” she said.
“No one on the cast is hard to get along with,” said Jerry Boyd (AKA Curtis), whose only acting credit before Retirement House was playing a pimp on an episode of Hawaii 5-0 about 50 years ago. “You might have a difference of opinion with someone, but we all get along like we’re siblings, and that’s great.”
Chase and Azran are the creative minds behind all of Retirement House’s videos. They script some longer sketches (such as the new series they just launched, called “Three Grandpas on a Bench”), but almost always have more success spoofing viral trends they come across, like a music video they made for the PinkPantheress and Ice Spice song “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2,” which was viewed over 13.5 million times and scored 2.3 million likes.
Bridging the generation gap
The cast often doesn’t know the context behind what they’re parodying when they start shooting, but the producers try their best to make sure everyone is eventually in on the joke.
“Everything is done with such respect and such patience —we never have a problem with the generation gap,” said Patty Yulish, 82, who plays Bubbe and is known for her remarkable ability to do the splits. “We’ll go out to dinner with [Chase and Azran] and always have a great time.”
That respect and trust goes both ways.
“I’ll do anything for a laugh,” said Chuck Lacy (AKA Eugene), remembering a time he wore adult diapers for a sketch. “The producers will always ask us if we’re OK with whatever they ask us to do, but we’ll all do just about anything.”
“They’re at that age where you stop caring so much about what people think about you,” Chase said. “They just have this sense of freedom that’s infectious.”
Many of the Retirement House cast members had worked in smaller-time entertainment roles before booking this gig, but none had ever reached an audience this large (or young) before. The community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We really touch people, I love the comments we get,” said Monterey Morrissey, who was an actor in Northern California before coming to L.A. and landing the role of Larry. “‘You’re the bright spot in my day.’ ‘My grandparents are gone and it really means a lot to see you guys — you remind me of them.’”
Retirement House’s videos do more than just entertain. They’re showing younger generations that getting older doesn’t mean you just have to take medication and sit in front of the TV. Laughing, playing, creating, finding your space in a community — these are things all people can and should do, regardless of age.
“There are so many ways the society we live in tries to convince us that we’re older,” Baker said. “Aging is wonderful and glorious and full of surprises — but don’t let them trick you into getting old!”