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By Kathy Megyeri
“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you’re a cheese.”
AMERICAN ACTRESS, BILLIE BURKE
For 20 years, Joan Lunden greeted us on “Good Morning, America” and was the longest-running female host on early morning television. She kept us up to date on caring for our homes, families and health. As special correspondent on the “Today” show and host of the CBS series “Your Health,” she is a popular speaker, event host, senior caregiving advocate, and breast cancer survivor. Her memoir, “Had I Known,” reflected on her life, career and cancer treatment. Among her other five books is my favorite, “A Bend in the Road is Not the End of the Road.”
In her latest book, “Why Did I Come Into This Room? A Candid Conversation About Aging,” she examines the various phases of aging that leave us feeling uncomfortable, confused and anxious. Lunden takes the depression out of aging, replaces it with her usual wit, humor and empathy, and proves that laughing is better than crying. Through her poignant, hilarious and insightful personal experiences, Lunden shares her anxieties, breakthroughs and coping techniques to face the realities of aging. She addresses the good, bad, ugly and even taboo topics of aging but explores the science of aging and its effects on the body and brain. She dispels the myths and reveals useful techniques to delay the aging process for as long as possible.
In Lunden’s opening dedication, she admits she wrote this book because of all us females who bonded with her over 20 years and became her morning friends on “Good Morning, America.” She knows we age differently from men, but reminds us of the positives of aging—the time to reflect, to express gratitude, to relax and to explore new opportunities. She wants us to learn from one another and take strength from each other. She begins with six tell-tale signs we’ve all faced that say, “Hey, I must be getting old:” lower energy, difficulty hearing, wrinkles and spots, weight gain, moments of memory loss and recognition from others that we might qualify for a senior citizen’s discount.
Even though some chapter titles would lead you to think this is a touchy-feely, be happy tome, trust me, it’s not. Her advice is so practical that I wish I had had this book in my hand years ago. For example, she devotes an entire chapter to the basic question, “Will this matter five years from now?” She encourages readers to “think like a doctor” because as her own father specialized in cancer surgery, she knows the importance of taking ownership of our own personal health information and history. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., it’s imperative that we know our numbers—blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, blood sugar levels and BMI (body mass index).
In the last chapter entitled, “I want to be cremated: It’s my last chance for a smoken’ hot body,” she encourages us to write our own obituary and eulogy because it will have a profound effect on us as it forces us to step back and take stock of our lives. She knows that we all have stories worth telling about how we’ve used our time on earth. What a priceless gift to give our families, and Joan shares with us her own mother’s eulogy called “Glitzy Gladys,” which is a joy to read.
And if for no other reason, read the book for the quotes she includes:
“You know you’re getting old when you can’t walk past a bathroom without thinking, ‘I may as well pee while I’m here’.”
“Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
“When you have a fight with your mate, never tell your mother or your best friend, for you’ll make up, but they will forever remember what a jerk he was.”
Joan’s own mother, Gladys
Cited as the reason for writing the book, Lunden took from swimmer and actress Esther Williams who wrote, “The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it,” and Lunden shares it so well.