What “The Golden Bachelor” Teaches Us About Getting Older

Female contestants in The Golden Bachelor courtesy ABC

On Sept. 28, the dating reality television series, “The Golden Bachelor,” premiered on ABC network. Twenty-two beautiful women, aged between 60 and 75, began their quest for love with 72-year -old “Golden Bachelor” star, Gerry Turner. Over the span of eight weeks, contestants participated in various group challenges in hopes of enjoying an extravagant night with the shining suitor.

The original series, “The Bachelor,” attracted over 9 million viewers during its first week on traditional television and streaming platforms. It was the biggest multi-platform broadcast event that the franchise had seen in years, with 13.9 million total viewers in September. Ratings among viewers aged between 18 and 49 were record high and millions of fans aged 55 and older were captivated. Like the original, the premise for “The Golden Bachelor,” is a happy marriage lasting throughout their golden years is the desire of all the contestants. However, only one woman can win.

“The Bachelor” put young adults in their 20s and 30s under the spotlight. Young, conventionally attractive cast members are meant to appeal to younger, more engaged audiences. Television programmers, advertisers and marketers focus primarily on the 18 to 49 audience demographic. In addition, networks will make decisions based almost entirely on younger audiences. Advertisers target specific age groups because they are more likely to purchase products. They tell networks to engage with younger viewers instead of the largest television-watching demographic: adults above 50.

Almost half of “The Bachelor’’ viewers are above 55 years old. It wasn’t until “The Golden Bachelor,” that the complex lives of older men and women were explored on the network show.

“The Golden Bachelor” recognizes the depth and wisdom that comes with age. Many of the women featured in the show are mothers, grandmothers, divorcees and retirees. Some of them are widows searching for love after loss.

Golden bachelor, Gerry Turner, shares a similar story. He was married to his wife Toni for 43 years before she died. Both of them lived a full and happy life until her sudden death, merely six weeks after she retired.. After his wife’s passing, he relied on his daughters and granddaughters for emotional support while grieving. Turner’s daughters encouraged him to join the show for a second chance in life to find love and happiness. Today, he’s a reality TV star.

Gerry Turner’s kind-hearted character has charmed audiences both young and old. The golden ladies of the show are full of life. They bring a sense of passion to the show that isn’t usually there. Each moment has the potential to bring you to tears or laughter.

Sandra, 75, is a retired executive assistant with a great sense of humor. Upon her arrival at the Bachelor Mansion, Sandra found a pair of bunk beds in one of the bedrooms. She quickly made her way to the bottom bunk, then said, “I’ve had my knees replaced! That’s a lot of climbing.”

April, 65, is the most hysterical therapist you’ll ever meet. She exited the limo in front of the Bachelor Mansion dancing like a chicken while carrying a basket of eggs. “My eggs are still very fresh,” she said. Later, April faked an ankle injury during a pickleball game. She winked at the camera while laying in the Golden Bachelor’s arms.

Natasha, 60, is a pro-aging coach and her radiant smile fills every scene. She was eliminated from the competition during the second week. After the rose ceremony, she pulled the camera team aside: “Guys, do the rose ceremony in chairs. You have people in here 60, 70, and above. They have chair yoga. They have chair exercises. They have chair aerobics. Chair rose ceremony!”

There are so many moments in “The Golden Bachelor” that display deep emotional bonds between women. Female contestants are seen cooking for each other and helping others get ready for dates. They will joyfully celebrate another woman’s win and still comfort her after a loss. In episode three, contestant Joan left the show abruptly to take care of her daughter, who had just given birth. She tearfully said to Gerry Turner, “Once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. Even if your kids are older.” Joan was completely heartbroken since she had just won a rose after a private date with the bachelor. The other women held her closely as they cried together. While driving to the airport, she tells audiences, “My heart maybe got a little fixed from Gerry. He’s helped with the journey. Because as you get older, you become more invisible. People don’t see you anymore. Like, you’re not as significant as when you’re young.”

Older men and women are often forgotten in a society that worships youth. Whether it’s the television network that disregards older viewers or the 40-plus-year old actress struggling to find work, there’s a larger issue at play.

Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination of individuals based on their age.

There is a gendered aspect to ageism that appears to most prominently affect older women. The term “invisible woman syndrome” describes how middle-age women are deemed invisible by larger society. Many of them experience being overlooked in social situations, in the workplace and in the media.

A survey by Gransnet found nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of women in their study believe that older women tend to be more invisible than men of the same age. These women attributed the phenomenon to society being obsessed with youth (62 percent), ageist (54 percent) and sexist (35 percent).

Ageism differs from other forms of oppression because it will affect most people. All of us will go through stages of life and death. Aging is a natural process, however, people equate old age with physical decline. Living in a youth-centered culture means the word “old” is negatively associated with decrepitude. Ageism diminishes the value of older adults and it’s a prejudice we direct against ourselves.

Women face the societal forces of ageism the most as their bodies begin to change. For women, their physical appearance forms the basis of their value in society. There’s an underlying cultural belief that the signs of beauty are also signs of youth. Meaning, the loss of youth is inextricably linked with the loss of beauty. The perceived loss of social value creates the “invisible woman syndrome.”

In another scene, contestant Ellen, embarks on an enchanting date in the sky with the Golden Bachelor. Fashion designer, Michael Costello, styles her for the hot-balloon date, which Gerry says “she truly deserves.” Ellen is dressed in a stunning pink gown when she decides to share her perspective with viewers. “I almost forgot what it feels like to love. It’s hard getting older. It’s hard getting older and falling in love. The hardest part is, my feelings that I haven’t had in so long are being ignited.”

“The Golden Bachelor” reveals the truth about aging. It reframes what it means to get older in a culture that is obsessed with anti-aging. Contrary to popular belief, people with gray hair still pursue love and intimacy. While the reality television series can be unrealistic at times, there is something very real at its core.

All episodes of “The Golden Bachelor” are available on ABC.com and on Hulu.