Photo courtesy of ABC.
After being postponed due to the pandemic, the long-anticipated reality TV show “The Golden Bachelor” has finally hit the airwaves on ABC, and it is creating quite a buzz! To promote their show, ABC has even coordinated watch parties at active adult communities, senior centers, and long-term care communities across the country. But while the show is naturally entertaining, it also brings to light several important topics — namely, the dating scene among the 55 and over crowd and the number of Baby boomers living alone.
Reality TV meets 55 and over dating
As television viewers — especially younger people — abandon network TV for streaming services, ABC has recognized the necessity to air more shows that appeal to the 55 and over demographic. And thus far, it appears that “The Golden Bachelor” is hitting the mark. According to Nielsen, the premiere attracted a respectable 4.4 million viewers.
The show features 72-year-old widower Gerry Turner as the “Golden Bachelor” who is looking for love again among the female contestants, all of whom are in their 60s and 70s. Through a variety of activities and “dates,” some of the women are selected by Turner to return, while others are sent home.
As part of the promotional run-up to the premiere, you may have seen Turner’s bronzed face emblazoning billboards and buses for several months. But despite the self-tanner and meticulously coifed hair of Turner and the female contestants, the show does keep some aspects of aging quite real, such as showing Turner putting in his hearing aids.
There is also a positive aging message that permeates each episode. The “storyline” repeatedly highlights that growing older instills in you a healthy perspective on what’s truly important in life and relationships.
Realities of the 55 and over singles scene
“The Golden Bachelor” also shines a light on the 55 and over dating scene. While most singles in this age group won’t be reality TV contestants, the show does underline the fact that many of the Baby boomers living alone are still hoping to find love — either for the first time or again.
And today’s 55 and over daters have more options than ever to try to find a partner. Of course, there are the tried-and-true options like meeting someone through friends or a shared interest like a hobby, volunteering, or religious activities. But online dating has truly revolutionized the singles scene — for better or worse.
Pew Research from 2022 revealed that among Americans 50 to 64, 20% (1 in 5) have used an online dating site or app. And 13% of people 65 and up also have tried a dating app. Some apps, like Howaboutwe.com and OurTime, have even been created specifically to target the growing number of 55 and over daters.
But on the flipside, older online daters need to use caution and some healthy skepticism as well. Scammers have found ways to exploit people’s desire to find companionship. For example, so-called online “catfishers” will pretend to be someone they are not, typically aiming to convince their victim to send them money via cash or gift cards. Bottom line, as with most things in life, if an online romantic interest sounds too good to be true, they probably are.
Baby boomers living alone by choice or circumstance
There is more to the story when it comes to Baby boomers living alone, however. Not everyone in this age group is so eager to date or find a partner.
Pew Research from 2019 found that the male age group with the fewest uncoupled people was men 65 and older, with just 1 in 5 (21%) in this demographic being single. For women, however, the age group with the most singles were those 65 and older, with nearly half (49%) of the women in that age group being single.
Of course, some of this discrepancy can be accounted for by men’s shorter life expectancy, leaving more women widowed, as well as men’s proclivity to marry or remarry later in life. But there is more nuance to the situation, as it turns out. Among the female Baby boomers living alone, in many cases, it is by choice.
The Pew researchers found that for people under 40, men and women were roughly equally likely to not actively be looking for a relationship or dates (33% and 39%, respectively). But among those 40 and older, a much larger number of women (71%) said they weren’t looking to date as compared to just 42% of the 40+ men. And as respondents’ ages increased, they were also increasingly likely to not be looking to date.
(It’s important to note that 55 and over singles — whether they are solo by choice or because of the hand life has dealt them — do have special considerations when it comes to growing older and saving for retirement.
Savoring the single life
Even as “The Golden Bachelor” underscores the fact that you are never too old to find love and companionship, Pew’s research reveals that not everyone 55 and over is interested in finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Indeed, while some 55+ adults have never been married, many of the Baby boomers living alone are widows or divorcees who have discovered that being single can have its benefits. For instance, you can spend your time focused on your own interests — whether that be friends, family, or a hobby — without having to factor in someone else’s priorities.
The New York Times talked with two women at a watch party for “The Golden Bachelor” at an active adult community, who summed it up well. “I couldn’t do it again; I had the best, so I really couldn’t do it again,” said one 84-year-old woman who has been widowed for over 20 years. When asked if she would be interested in finding love again, another 78-year-old widow responded, “I don’t know. Maybe just a good friendship.”