This fall, ABC will premiere the reality show “The Golden Bachelor,” a spinoff of “The Bachelor,” where the star is Gerry Turner, a 71-year-old man looking for a new partner.
The show has the potential to help normalize the desire for love at any age, said an expert on productive engagement of older adults.
“I have mixed emotions as I look forward to the start of the new show,” said Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Betty Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“On one hand, I am all for promoting the fact that companionship, intimacy and sexuality are important elements of well-being across the entire life course,” said Morrow-Howell, who is co-director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the university.
Many older adults remain interested in physical and emotional intimacy, even when they have health conditions that change how intimacy is expressed or when they lose a partner, she said.
“At any age, it may be hard to find the right partner, and older people are less often ‘out there’ running in circles to meet new and available partners,” she said. “Dating apps are becoming more familiar to older people, so that is good. And some places are organizing speed dating and other ways older adults can meet. So maybe this TV show can further normalize the quest for romance at any age.”
However, Morrow-Howell said she is concerned about how producers of the show will portray older people.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the usual portrayal of older people as frail, irrelevant, slow, silly, etc.,” she said. “More likely is that we’ll see the other extreme, the ‘super-agers’ — older people running marathons or traveling to exotic places, with no health problems and flush with financial, social and other resources.”
As the promotional materials for the show reveal, “Turner lives in his dream house on a beautiful lake in Indiana. He’s often busy hosting barbecues, playing pickleball, cheering on his favorite Chicago sports teams, four-wheeling and spending time with friends and family at restaurants and local haunts.”
Good for him, Morrow-Howell said.
“But we also need to see more common images and hear more common stories,” she said. “If we want everyone to be able to imagine the possibility of seeking new love in later life, we need to see people who look like all of us and have less-than-perfect life circumstances. I hope the ‘Golden Bachelor’s’ potential matches are not all beauty queens with over-the-top talents.
“We need to see ourselves if we are to discard the stereotypes about aging and put ourselves out there for new relationships,” she said. “So, I am cautiously optimistic and hope the ‘Golden Bachelor’ moves us further toward a culture where older people’s romantic pursuits and sexuality are embraced.”