What Led Women To Join The Golden Bachelor? April Kirkwood, Kathy Swarts And Others Speak Out

 April Kirkwood and Gerry Turner on The Golden Bachelor.
April Kirkwood and Gerry Turner on The Golden Bachelor.

Gerry Turner may have won over the hearts of America on what has become probably the week’s most feel-good hour of television with The Golden Bachelor, but over the season so far we’ve also fallen in love with the women he is getting to date. ABC had been teasing a senior citizen-aged dating show for years before introducing Turner, so what inspired these sweet and sassy women to apply for The Golden Bachelor’s inaugural season? April Kirkwood, Kathy Swarts and other contestants have answered that very question.

Regular viewers of The Bachelor/Bachelorette are used to seeing young adults shedding lots of tears as they battle their peers for time with the person they’re all simultaneously dating. The Golden Bachelor has been bringing the emotion as well, with many of the contestants discovering the possibility of finding love again after the loss of their husbands. That was April Kirkwood’s experience, she told ET, after her friends insisted she’d be great on the show. She said:

The truth is I had lost Ralph, the love of my life. He was the man I hated to love and loved to hate. He passed away. I didn’t know what to do. My friends from all walks of life – people I didn’t even think liked me – were all sending me applications. Never watched the Bachelor, didn’t know anything about it. After about the ninth application, I filled one in. Destiny took over. Here I am. Now I am a Bachelor Nation groupie.

Kathy Swarts — who caused quite a ruckus by telling fellow cast member Theresa Nist to “Zip it” — lost her husband of almost 46 years to suicide, and she told USA TODAY that she committed a few years ago to saying “yes” to adventures and new opportunities. In Kathy’s words:

Love isn’t just for 20- or 30-somethings. I’m 70 years old and I’m active and I believe in love. I believe that you can find love on this show. I believe that people just need to get up off the sofa and have experiences and live their life. We only get one chance, you know? We only get one go-round here. So I think that hopefully that America will see that life isn’t over at 60. For many of us, it’s a second chance at love. It’s a second chance for life.

For many of The Golden Bachelor’s cast, their children have been the primary focus of their lives for so many years, and the show has faced a unique issue, as family obligations have forced a couple of contestants to self-eliminate.

Natascha Hardee and Gerry Turner on The Golden Bachelor.
Natascha Hardee and Gerry Turner on The Golden Bachelor.

It’s lovely to see the women choosing their own happiness, and few people on this season have been as bright a light as Natascha Hardee. She said, per ET, that after raising kids and grandkids, it was time to do something for herself:

My relationship history has been very uninteresting for about the last five to seven years, because I was raising my granddaughter and now that she's in high school, I decided, hey, this is a great opportunity for me to get back into my adult life again... [It was] an opportunity for me to say yes to things that are out of my comfort zone, that I might not normally say yes to.

Jeanie Howard, for her part, turned to The Golden Bachelor after seemingly exhausting her other options, telling ET:

I've been divorced since probably around 2008, 2009. I've tried the dating apps. I've tried meeting people through meetups. I've tried meeting people through friend groups. Nothing seemed to work for me, so I thought, 'Why not?'

Whatever inspired The Golden Bachelor’s cast to apply, I am grateful, because they are a fun group to cheer for. Hopefully we can keep cheering them on along their journeys, should ABC decide to expand the franchise further with The Golden Bachelorette. For now, though, Gerry Turner’s journey continues at 8 p.m. ET Mondays on ABC.