By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- The life expectancy for women in the U.S. has been dropping and soon will match those of men.
This was one of the bombs dropped by keynote speaker Joan Lunden at Monday's grand opening of The Village at Orchard Ridge, a retirement community west of Winchester. The primary cause, she explained, is due to increased rates of smoking among young girls, who pick up the habit because of emotional and self-confidence issues.
"Women are trying to balance a work life and a family life," she said. "They have less free time, less intimacy, more stress and more divorce."
A former co-host of "Good Morning America" and co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers," Lunden delivered a 50-minute speech to approximately 500 guests about the changing view of aging and retirement.
"I stopped and thought about how I viewed older age as a child," she said. "And I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, I thought of 50 as the end. But now I'm 62 and I don't think that way anymore. In fact, I think I'm in one of the best decades of my life."
The mother of seven shared that Mount Kilimanjaro is on her bucket list and offered a bright outlook for the 222 residents living on the Orchard Ridge campus.
"Today's boomers are approaching like a silver tsunami," she said, referencing the 40.3 million seniors today above the age of 65. In 2030, she added, that number will grow to 72 million. There are 66,000 centenarians alive today, she said, which is 20 times more than the amount in 1960.
Lunden capped off her presentation with 10 strategies to living a longer and healthier life, including keeping physically and mentally active, knowing your family history, creating a personal health record and having a sense of purpose and a positive attitude.
"Thirty percent of longevity is controlled by genes," she said, "which means 70 percent is up to us. A lot of people don't like to hear that because it throws all the responsibility back in our laps. But you should feel empowered by that."
The assisted living community welcomed its first residents in February and opened the doors of its on-campus health center on May 28.
Courtney Malengo, director of public relations at National Lutheran Communities and Services, said that out of all the names the organization had selected to speak at the opening, Lunden was "by far the first choice."
"She's been the perfect fit for what we do, because she's been caring for her 94-year-old mom, so she understands," said Malengo.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org