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‘Golden Bachelor’ inspired older adults to seek romance, busted dating stereotypes

‘Golden Bachelor’ inspired older adults to seek romance, busted dating stereotypes

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MINNEAPOLIS – Laura Davis had never watched “The Bachelor” or its many iterations. But the 63-year-old Minneapolis resident tuned in for “The Golden Bachelor,” starring daters with hearing aids.

Her hope didn’t spring from Gerry Turner, the weepy 72-year-old widower at the reality TV show’s center. It came from the women. Those daring, darling women, some of whom “didn’t think they would ever be able to actually have feelings for a man again,” said Davis, who was briefly married in the ’80s. She watched as they fell in love.

The hit ABC-TV reality series, which culminated last week with the live broadcast of Turner’s wedding to 70-year-old widow Theresa Nist, has sparked conversations about the love lives of older adults, about what it means to pursue sex, romance and marriage in your 60s and 70s. It has rekindled a few of those love lives, too.

The show comes at a time when more seniors are single: Roughly half of women over 65 are unpartnered, according to a 2020 Pew Research survey, thanks partly to men’s shorter life expectancy. But divorce rates are up for older Americans, too.

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It’s Just Lunch Minneapolis, a matchmaking service, hasn’t seen an increase in memberships it can attribute to “The Golden Bachelor.” But the show has come up in conversation with several new female clients, said Natalie Fry, membership director and matchmaker.

In many ways, “The Golden Bachelor” hewed closely to the world built over two decades of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” with its glittery dates and its princess-cut engagement ring. But thanks to the contestants, the show also touched on real issues of family and memory and loss.

During one episode, some of the women donned goofy outfits for a photo shoot, a classic “Bachelor” group date. Wearing a white wedding dress for the first time in decades, Nancy Hulkower, a widow, began to cry. Turner checked in, and the two connected over the way grief can hit at unexpected times, in unexpected ways.

The construct of the date was “dopey,” but the emotions were authentic, said Julie Pfitzinger, managing editor of Next Avenue, a nonprofit publication focused on growing older in America. “I think that’s where I was like, OK, I get this show, now.”

But Pfitzinger wishes that the series had more intentionally delved into the topics raised in some of those one-on-one chats. How might we manage blending families? How would we combine finances – or not? What if one of us gets cancer?

“That’s the reality of a relationship when you’re 70 and older,” said Pfitzinger, whose husband died in July at age 65. “It’s not all dancing in the diner.”

More than four years ago, Michele Arnoldy’s husband, a war veteran, died by suicide. Arnoldy, a life coach and former trauma nurse, healed herself through psychotherapy, through writing, through faith. Now, at age 66, she’s ready to sell the house and start a new chapter. To find love again.

This spinoff demonstrated that “in your 60s and 70s, you still want the same things,” Arnoldy said. “People label seniors as something they really aren’t. We still need affection. We still like sex. .

But she wishes the show had made the women look less giddy and more mature. She seksikäs Tanskalainen naiset guesses that was partly due to the producers, who interview the cast on camera, being much, much younger. As a coach, she would have had a different approach, posing questions that revealed their life experience, their wisdom.

Rather than: “How are you feeling about this guy?” Maybe: “What is different about Gerry that intrigues you from when you’ve been in love before?”

Had she been picked for the show, Arnoldy would have brought that wisdom. “Love isn’t enough,” she said. “Love fades. Love ebbs and flows. What keeps the relationship going are things like friendship, compatibility, acceptance.”

But she suspects she would have left the show early – and is surprised that more of the women, with all their life experience, didn’t do so.

“Why would all 25 of these women want this one man? That doesn’t make sense to me. I could see that in younger women who are less experienced. But I would have said, ‘He’s not for me.'”

During the show’s September premiere, Laura Stassi, host of the podcast “Dating While Gray,” got goose bumps. But the next episode revealed that the contestants were sleeping in bunk beds. “Bunk beds!” exclaimed Stassi, who also co-hosted a recap podcast for Slate. “So from the very beginning, you’re not even accommodating older bodies.”

Later, Hollywood Reporter published allegations that called into question the image of Turner as a “lonely, white-collar widower still mourning his wife’s death,” as Stassi put it.

Relationships look different later in life, and the show could have acknowledged those realities rather than relying on the fairy tale, she said. Why did the show have to end with an engagement, a marriage, a move?

“Older couples are leading the way in ‘living apart together’ relationships,” Stassi said. “Not only are older couples leading the way, but women are the driving force.”

After years of raising a son and tending to a home, Davis has more room in her life – but maybe not in her house. Sharing a space would be “incredibly difficult,” said Davis, the Minneapolis woman whom the show inspired. Marriage, too, isn’t a priority.

Davis has a rich social life filled with many friends – “you need to have a lot of friends when you’re single and you’re getting older.” But she misses having someone “at the ready” – to see a movie, to see a play.

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