Clare Crawley, 38, cast as next Bachelorette — why it’s time for the show’s oldest female star

ABC has revealed which Bachelor Nation personality will be handing out roses on Season 16 of The Bachelorette — and her casting marks something of a milestone for the long-running reality dating show.

At 38 years old, Clare Crawley — a runner-up during Juan Pablo Galavis’s 2014 season of The Bachelor who later went looking for love on spin-offs like Bachelor in Paradise and The Bachelor Winter Games — will be the oldest woman to be the Bachelorette. Season 13’s Rachel Lindsay, then 32, previously held that distinction, while last year’s Bachelorette, Hannah Brown, was 24.

Clare Crawley (pictured during Season 2 of Bachelor in Paradise) will be the oldest Bachelorette star. (Photo: Bob D'Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Crawley, who was briefly engaged to Winter Games love interest Benoît Beauséjour-Savard after he proposed during the 2018 show’s After the Final Rose special, addressed her age on Good Morning America Monday.

"A lot of people put it out there as this negative thing, but for me, it just is more years under my belt, more learning and knowing what I want, what I don't want and what I won't settle for," the California native and hairstylist said.

While Crawley refused to rule out dating younger men, she acknowledged that her age could intimidate some potential suitors.

"I have been known to date younger guys, so that's not a problem for me," she said. "The thing is I'm wondering if they're ready for me, for my age. I feel like that would be more of an issue, than me with them, because I feel so much younger at heart than my actual age.

"I'm proud of my age, but I just feel younger and I feel like that to me is what's important," she added.

While age isn’t an issue with Crawley, it poses an interesting challenge for show producers known for milking a cast member’s unique trait (see: past Bachelor Colton Underwood being featured in ads modeled after the movie poster for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, including the tagline “What does he have to lose?”). And with past Bachelorettes ranging in age from 24 to 32, it’s a topic the Bachelorette has yet to really explore.

By The Bachelor standards, however, Crawley’s age is hardly noteworthy. Season 6 saw 40-year-old Byron Velvick — who remains the oldest cast member — ride off into the sunset (and eventually break up with) 34-year-old Mary Delgado. Both Nick Viall (Season 16) and Arie Luyendyk Jr. (Season 18) were 36 years old when they starred on their respective seasons; the latter memorably grappled with dating then-22-year-old nanny Bekah M. on the show for fear that their age difference made them incompatible.

That’s not to say that mild age-shaming doesn’t exist on a show famous for featuring singles sobbing that they haven’t found their soulmate by 25, and in which virginity remains a hot-button issue. On last summer’s Bachelor in Paradise, contestant Chris Bukowski was the butt of jokes targeting his age and numerous appearances on the show. One montage saw the Bachelor Nation alum using a walker — at the ripe old age of 32.

Given Crawley’s flair for drama — she made her very first mansion entrance sporting a fake baby bump, famously shut down Galavis’s crude comments about their sex life and is the star of countless GIF-able Bachelor Nation moments — her participation on the show will be immensely watchable, regardless of her age. What remains in doubt is whether The Bachelorette will take the opportunity to thoughtfully explore what a grown woman who has experienced multiple adult relationships is looking for, or if it will go for the easy cougar jokes or (God forbid) desperate spinster trope.

Viall, for one, is all for it. The former reality star noted that Crawley’s casting made sense given the trend of people no longer rushing to get married at a young age.

Given the typically short shelf life of past Bachelor/Bachelorette romances, it makes sense to shine the spotlight on a woman who has had more time to finetune what she wants and needs from a partner. The show is already casting single senior citizens for an upcoming spin-off, another sign that producers are figuring out that there’s more to life (and TV ratings) than the cookie-cutter, boy-meets-girl storyline.

And if Crawley’s season ends in just a fling and no ring? So be it. Her timeline, her business.

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.