When 19-year-old Madison Kohout moved into her new apartment complex, she didn’t think much about the average age of her neighbors.
After all, she had scored a nice apartment in Northeast Arkansas City in Piggott after moving from Oklahoma. However, about a week away in her new home, Ms. Kohout saw a sign outside the 10-unit complex that she hadn’t noticed before.
“I was looking around to see what I could do here, and I saw the sign saying ‘Senior Living Apartments’, and I realized that I have moved into a retirement community,” Ms. Kohout said. in an interview. . “Once I saw the sign, everything clicked. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe I did this.’ “
Ms Kohout’s arrival at the apartment complex came after a connection she made over the past year via TikTok with Piggott’s Lori Parker, who describes herself to her more than 65,000 subscribers as “the wife of a preacher, mom and Nonna ”. The two took turns on the social media platform and quickly developed rapport by commenting on the videos they shared.
“She just touched my heart,” Ms. Parker said on Sunday. “I felt like I had known her for a long time.”
Ms. Kohout had left home at age 17 after a childhood that she said had “a lot of challenges”. In an article on TikTok, she said that she grew up supporting herself. After saying in a video that it had been a long time since she had celebrated Thanksgiving as a family, Ms Parker invited her to Arkansas. Those plans failed, but Ms Kohout later met the Parker family in February.
“I just fell in love with his family, and they were so nice to me,” Ms. Kohout said.
Ms Parker eventually suggested Ms Kohout move to Piggott, about 100 miles north of Memphis, so that she could be closer to family. Ms Parker and her husband, Shawn, have four children – the oldest is 31 and the youngest, 17, lives with them.
Ms Kohout moved to Piggott from Norman, Okla., In March and started searching for apartments online.
There wasn’t a lot of information about apartments in Piggott, so when she finally found accommodation and signed a month-to-month lease, she had no idea she was going to move into a senior citizen complex.
“She knew I was 19 but never said anything,” Ms. Kohout said of the owner, who could not be reached for comment. “The owner really loved me.”
Ms Kohout said that although the complex was designed for the elderly, it was “equal opportunity housing” meaning it could not legally discriminate against tenants.
Sunset had passed when Ms Kohout signed the lease, but she was told she could start moving in that night if she wanted.
“Nobody will hear anything”, remembers Mrs. Kohout laughing, remembers the owner telling her. “They can’t really hear that well.”
Ms Kohout said it meant she could play music whenever she wanted, even when she came home late from her work as a nursing assistant. This is one of the many perks of living in a senior apartment complex that Ms. Kohout documented on TikTok.
Before moving to Arkansas, Ms Kohout said she had around 30,000 followers on the social media app. Since then, as its TikTok updates to the apartment complex have gained attention, its subscriber count has grown to over 92,000.
Ms Kohout said she has shown some of her TikTok videos to some of her neighbors and enjoys bonding with them and hearing their stories.
“It’s like having extra groups of grandparents,” Ms. Kohout said, adding that some of them would watch her, invite her to dinner and even leave snacks on her doorstep.
Ms Kohout said she connected with a particular neighbor who had a similar experience growing up.
“It’s fun to see how she persevered with her challenges in life,” Ms. Kohout said. “We tell a lot, even though she is 50 years older than me.”
For now, Ms. Kohout plans to continue living at the resort and sharing her experiences with her TikTok followers. She hopes to write a book, she says, and would consider writing about what she’s learned from her new neighbors.
“They have a lot of stories that have definitely shaped and touched my heart, and I think a lot of people would benefit from that,” she said. “I was lucky enough to be able to hear them all.”