‘The Golden Bachelor’ Finale: Gerry Turner Hands Out His Final Rose

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The debut season of “The Golden Bachelor,” ABC’s dating show featuring contestants 60 and older, concluded on Thursday night with its lead, Gerry Turner, a 72-year-old retiree and pickleball enthusiast from Indiana, proposing to Theresa Nist, 70, a financial services professional from Shrewsbury, N.J.

“I know how sometimes it feels like the whole world thinks that love is only for the young,” Ms. Nist said moments before accepting his proposal. “And quite honestly, at the age of 70, I was beginning to feel that myself.”

Meeting Mr. Turner changed that, she said. “I feel that for us, life isn’t over. The best is yet to come.”

Mr. Turner and Ms. Nist announced during the finale that they planned to marry on Jan. 4 in a televised ceremony. “At our age, we don’t have a lot of time to waste,” he said.

The show, which had been in the works for about a decade, gave airtime to the romantic lives of a demographic that has largely gone ignored by reality TV. As Mr. Turner and Ms. Nist snuggled on a Ferris wheel and rode through a river on horseback — scenes typical of the “Bachelor” franchise — they also met each other’s grandchildren and discussed the challenges of dating after the death of a spouse. Mr. Turner’s wife, Toni, died in 2017, and Ms. Nist’s husband, Billy, died in 2014.

The 22 women Mr. Turner dated on the show ranged in age from 60 to 75 and included widows, divorcées, grandmothers and one pickleball team captain. Before proposing to Ms. Nist, Mr. Turner broke up with Leslie Fhima, 64, a fitness instructor from Minneapolis. “You’re both wonderful, but only one of you is right,” Mr. Turner told Ms. Fhima, who had been considered one of the season’s front-runners.

Ms. Fhima said she was “blindsided” by Mr. Turner’s decision. “You made it sound like you chose me,” she said through tears, later in the conversation. “You led me down a path, and then you took a turn and left me there.”

The spinoff has renewed interest in a flagging franchise. The eight episodes before the finale drew an average of 5.7 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen — a stronger per-episode showing than any full season of the franchise since 2021.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Turner said he had applied for the show not only to find a partner, but to show viewers that “people my age still have hope, and they still have vigorous lives.”

ABC has not announced whether “The Golden Bachelor” will return for a second season.

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