You may be familiar with ABC’s TV reality show “The Bachelor.” It’s basically a 21st-century spin on “The Dating Game,” where a single man meets and dates 30 “contestants” over the course of the TV season. Each week a number of women are given a rose by the bachelor, indicating they get to continue on in the contest, while those who don’t receive a rose are sent home.
With the show’s success “dating” back to 2002, ABC recently announced that they are expanding “The Bachelor” franchise (which already includes “The Bachelorette” and several other spinoffs). They are currently casting for a new season that will feature seniors, age 65 and older, as the bachelor and the contestants.
>> Related: Solving the Baby Boomers’ Loneliness Crisis
A senior version of “The Bachelor”
The producers of this new show seem to have a genuine interest in seniors’ relationships; this is just a gimmick that will further stereotypes about aging.
ABC executive Rob Mills explains, “There is an interesting thing about people who have hit the other end of the spectrum, who’ve lived their lives, they’ve raised their kids, some have been widowed or divorced, and maybe some have never been in love. We thought that would be an interesting dynamic through the ‘Bachelor’ prism.”
Many of the new show’s fundamentals will run in line with the original “Bachelor,” including group activities and one-on-one dates between the bachelor and the contestants, but there will be a key difference.
In the original show, the bachelor goes with the finalists to their hometown to meet the women’s parents. In the new version with seniors, however, the so-called “hometown dates” will mean being introduced to the contestants’ children.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed casting and production of the new senior version of “The Bachelor,” ABC is confident the show will be a success once it is filmed and aired. And I believe it will be too. I think this is a clear indication that society’s views on aging, dating, and sex are changing — a shift that can benefit seniors’ mental and physical health.
>> Related: The Unexpected Cost of Divorce in Retirement
Dating and relationships among seniors
There was a time not too long ago when intimacy was not a topic for open discussion, especially among people of “a certain age.” But there is concrete evidence that attitudes and mores are shifting in the U.S.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA), conducted by researchers at University of Michigan’ Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, surveys about 2,000 Americans age 50–80 two to three times per year to gather data on various senior issues.
The research team includes physicians, social workers, and a variety of other social scientists and analysts working to inform the public, healthcare providers, policymakers, and senior advocates on issues related to senior health.
In 2017, NPHA collaborated with AARP and the University of Michigan’s academic medical center to survey around 1,000 seniors age 65 to 80 about their perspectives on relationships and sexual health. The researchers uncovered several interesting findings.
- Nearly three out of four (72 percent) respondents reported having a current romantic partner (married, partnered, or in a relationship). Among the single group, 13 percent had been on a date with someone new in the past two years.
- Three-quarters (76 percent) of survey participants agreed that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age, and 40 percent indicated that they are currently sexually active.
>> Related: Dating and Intimacy in Retirement Communities
Evolving views on aging and love
These survey results reveal that most seniors are in relationships or willing to pursue one if they are single. In particular, the statistic on single seniors who have been on a date in the past two years is evidence of their interest in finding love.
We have made it a long way when it comes to recognizing that humans crave companionship, regardless of age. And I believe the forthcoming ABC TV show is concrete evidence that our society has embraced this concept with more inclusive, positive views on aging.