Many of us feel we know Joan Lunden, 69, — really know her personally. After all, the longtime Good Morning America host, author, spokesperson and mother of seven, has been in the public eye for the last three decades.
She has written about weight loss and cancer, but it's Lunden's latest book, Why Did I Come into This Room? A Candid Conversation about Aging, that is her most personal to date. In it she takes a poke at the aging process and addresses everything from hot flashes to doing Kegels at red lights to the age she feels in her mind ("today I pick 45"). She also provides a funny and poignant look at the inevitable parts of growing older, with an emphasis on creating a vibrant and active blueprint for the rest of your life. (P.S. Don't call her a senior citizen.)
Why write a book about getting older?
I used to hear from people and they'd say ‘You still look so vibrant. Why don't you write a book about what keeps you this way?’ So, I was working on this book that I called ‘Live Younger Longer’ and then I was diagnosed with cancer. So, I stopped to write Had I Known [her 2015 memoir about her battle with triple negative breast cancer]. And then I thought, I don't want to write how to live younger longer. I want to write how to understand your body. And how to be the best that you can possibly be — mind, body and soul — at whatever age you are.
The danger in thinking, ‘I look good ... for my age'
It affects the way we think about what our capabilities are and what our possibilities are. People are staying engaged in the world and in life longer, but somehow while this change has gone on — this incredible shift — I still don't feel like the whole society has consciously embraced it. We still think of a 60-year-old or a 70-year-old in a completely different way... . Our possibilities now extend way beyond what we used to think of as a retirement age.
On being replaced by ‘Good Morning America’ at age 45
I wanted to be honest about that, which is the first time I've really talked about it. For years men have been working and at some point, they're made to leave because they're that age. It's tough because, what's your identity then? I certainly had that leaving GMA. My hosting role was so intertwined with who I was — you couldn't separate them... .
How having twins via a surrogate at age 52 and 54 keeps her young
We had a party when Kim and Jack were born. So, they were newborns and Kate and Max, who were about 20 months older, were running around like maniacs. All these women who were my friends, type A workaholics, came in the front door and looked at this mayhem and said, ‘Oh, my God, I'm exhausted just looking at this.’ And interestingly, the French women who had come from this local store to cater the party, when they walked in, they looked and said, ‘Oh, my. You will never grow old.’ One set of eyes saw it as exhilarating; the other side as exhausting. A lot of it does just depend on your outlook on life.
Lunden’s Life List
Secret pleasure: Crossword puzzles
Testifying on the Family Leave Act: “They asked me to come and represent the working mom, the caregiver, and the sandwich generation, as somebody who took care of my mom.”
Tombstone text: She was classy, sassy, and a bit bad-assy.
Her mom, lovingly dubbed ‘Glitzy Gladys,’ was very outgoing, but spent her latter years isolated
How she lived her last years of her life was a huge eye-opener and a huge life lesson to me — that if I understand how I'm aging I can understand how to take better care of myself. It's not just taking care of yourself in the sense of going to the doctor. It's understanding the importance of staying engaged in life — planning things, going places, [having] friendships and the importance of social connections. And the third thing was, and this is really important to me: having a sense of purpose.
Life after cancer treatments offers a different perspective
I was going through that aging metamorphosis, where you all of a sudden give yourself permission to exhale, and say, ‘OK, so maybe I'm up here at the top of the mountain, but, man, this looks good!’ I can give myself a little applause for life well lived. I can take stock of what I've done in my life. And also: What I always maybe dreamed of doing but never really got around to it. Do I like the person that I have become, all the decisions that I've made and all the ways I've treated people up to this point? ... It's the biggest pivot point. Because when you take that kind of assessment, and you embrace it, it becomes your guidepost for how you're going to walk forward in the rest of your life.