I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joan Lunden and it was like catching up with an old friend. Joan Lunden is warm, honest and naturally funny, so it’s easy to talk about any topic, including her career, her family, her passions and the truth about what it feels like to get older in 2020.
Joan Lunden joined the show Good Morning America in 1976 as a featured reporter. Four years later, she became the co-host of GMA (alongside David Hartman.)
After a 17-year-tenure, Lunden left GMA in 1997. At the time, viewers were told that she was departing to spend more time with her young daughters. It wasn’t until many years later in a 2016 interview with Oprah Winfrey that Lunden explained the real reason she left the show. Lunden says, “Studio executives never said it was because of my age, but they replaced me with a 30-year-old version of myself. (Lunden was 46 at the time.) I chose not to discuss it because I wanted to leave with dignity. I took a step back and realized I didn’t want this one moment of turmoil to define me or my career.”
Anyone who thinks Lunden retired after GMA is mistaken. In the past twenty years, Lunden, now 69, has worked as a reporter, a TV show host, a public speaker and a cancer advocate (Lunden was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2014.) In addition, she has authored several books, including the recently published, Why Did I Come into This Room? A Candid Conversation about Aging. And she is also a wife (married to her second husband, Jeff Konigsberg since 2000), a mother of seven children and grandmother of four.
Lunden chose to write this book because she knows first-hand how women tend to put their own issues on the back burner. Lunden says, “As women, we are wired to be caregivers. We would never hesitate to take our child to the doctor if they were experiencing weird physical or emotional symptoms. But when we find ourselves waking up at 3 a.m. to pee or gaining weight as we age, we are less inclined to seek advice from a physician. We chalk these issues up to getting older We are embarrassed by what is happening to our bodies and we think we have to live with it.”
But as Lunden found out, there are many things that women can do to improve the quality of their lives as they age. Lunden says, “Women age differently than men. Our metabolisms change as we get older. It’s empowering to know the reasons why we are gaining weight. We shouldn’t feel like failures if losing weight is a struggle in midlife. But these changes are not always inevitable. We can make small changes in our diet, exercise routines, and manage stress that can improve our lives. I hope by sharing these nuggets of information, I can empower other women.”
Joan Lunden says now in 2020 her priorities have changed as she has gotten older. She explains, “When I was 30 if someone asked me why I worked out or ate a certain way, I probably would have said to be skinny and sexy. Now I want to be fit, strong and fabulous. I exercise so I can have the energy to play tennis, power walk, manage stress and keep up with my grandkids.”
It was important for Lunden to differentiate between getting older and being old. She says, “I wanted to talk about getting older – the good, the bad the embarrassing – and I wanted to explain not just what happens but why it happens. It was important to talk about these issues honestly and with a good sense of humor – the way you would talk with your close girlfriends.”
Divided into three sections (Mind, Body, and Soul) Lunden is willing to “go there” with readers. She shares her very personal, sometimes embarrassing stories about getting older, including a hilarious moment on page 168 about needing to pee very badly while wearing Spanx and formal attire. The details will have readers laughing out loud and nodding their heads in solidarity. Lunden says, “My husband asked, ‘Are you sure you want to share the Spanx story?’ and I said, ‘Why not?’ As I have gotten older, I no longer strive to be perfect. My imperfections inspire me.”
One of the silver linings of getting older for Lunden is allowing herself to exhale. She says. “I am very proud of where I am and the dreams that I have achieved both personally and professionally. I can also look back appreciatively and say ‘Wow! Look how far you have made it!'”
That’s not to say Lunden is done looking forward. She says, “I am fortunate to have a wide range of projects to choose from and the luxury of only having to say ‘yes’ to the ones I feel passionate about. I am also conscious of creating balance in my life. Sometimes you can’t have it all (work, family, etc.) at the same time and you need to prioritize.”
Joan Lunden is excited about the future and not afraid to continue to re-invent herself in 2020. During the pandemic, Lunden started hosting a weekday Facebook Live show at 1 p.m. EST. Says Lunden, “Women are living longer. We need to be able to continue to grow, learn, and pursue new hobbies. Women in our 60’s and 70’s and beyond, we are still in our prime. My mom used to say, ‘Joannie, you need plans,” so I never stop planning my next chapter.