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St. Albert seniors create social media buzz over hockey TikToks

TikTok-ing seniors from Northern Alberta are gearing up for the Battle of Alberta.

ST. ALBERT, Alta — Seniors Ron Espey and Gib Paradis said TikTok has become quite interesting since they have found social media fame with their viral videos inspired by hockey.

People living at the St. Albert Retirement Residence have racked up thousands of likes on videos of them cheering on the Edmonton Oilers as the Oilers make their way through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Espey said they were quite surprised when a video of him and Paradis wearing Oilers jerseys, dropping gloves, and pulling punches to the tune of You Gotta Fight for Your Right by the Beastie Boys received more than 200,000 likes.

“Oh, gosh. We were really surprised with that. Quite, quite a surprise,” said Espey.

“Unbelievable,” said Paradis.

Both Paradis and Espey are long-time Oilers fans and who have been enjoying the playoff games.

“We're really interested in the final thing here with Calgary and Edmonton,” said Espey.

Paradis thinks the Battle of Alberta will be a busy one.

“But the Oilers have a better team, I think. I'm sure.” he said.

Lori Kari is the recreation therapist and the regional director of health and wellness at the St. Albert Retirement Residence. She said staff and residents have been blown away by the number of likes some of their videos have received.

Kari said usually they would be happy to see 100 likes on a video.

“Like, ‘Woo! We're doing so awesome,’ and, ‘That's great families are seeing it — that is so great!’ Then all of a sudden, the fighting video had reached 1,000 [likes], and then 2,000. And then it was 100,000. And now I think it's 230,000 likes. It just really blew us away,” she said.

Kari said they started the TikTok account in August of 2020 because she was looking for innovative and creative programming that is engaging.

“With the social media, that's kind of what's on trend. And so, if my kids can do TikTok, why can't my seniors do TikTok,” she said.

As for what the seniors think of the fame, Kari said they are just having fun with it.

She said they have received lots of calls from family and lots of calls from different media organizations as well.

Paradis said he has even heard from a daughter in Victoria over the TikToks.

Kari and Paradis will soon be featured on the television program Good Morning Toronto.

“Every single time [Paradis is] hilarious. He says, ‘You gotta be kidding. You gotta be kidding.’ He just can't even believe it either. Because, like I said, for them it’s just a fun program,” she said.

Kari said she and recreation aide Loida Geralde brainstorm the ideas for the videos. They get inspiration from what is trending.

“A lot of times, it's just impromptu as well. We don't know what they're going to say. We don't develop a script for them. So, they have really no idea [either]. It just kind of falls into place,” she said.

Kari said filming the videos also adds a lot of buzz to the building.

“A lot of times, when we film a video, especially if it's in our multi-purpose room, there’s 15 other residents that will just come and watch because they find it so funny to watch their table mate or their best friend in these videos,” she said.

Kari said there is a lot of excitement for the Battle of Alberta between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, and a future video might feature one of their seniors calling a senior at one of their Calgary sites.

“The Battle of Alberta is going to be happening. And we think that's going to be a funny one,” she said.

As for whether everyone in the building is an Oilers' fan, Kari said there are at least two residents who are Flames fans.

“I put little Oiler flags on every table in the dining room just for fun. There was one resident, he took it down. He was like, ‘No, no, no, Lori. We need a Flames [flag] at this table.’”