Journalist Joan Lunden considers herself part of the sandwich generation as a working mother of seven and a former caregiver to her 94-year-old mother. Lunden offers advice at Washington Post Live's Caregiving in America forum on having the conversation with a parent or other relative about end of life care. (Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)

Joan Lunden at Washington Post Live’s Caregiving in America forum in Chicago. (Photo by Ashlee Rezin/The Washington Post)

“In 1930, the average life expectancy in the United States was 59. Today, it’s about 81 for women and about 76 for men. The fastest-growing part of the population today is the oldest old, those over 100. They say that the person who will live up to 120 has already been born. Now that’s exciting — and that’s really daunting.

“In the old days, you had one or two parents who were going to have to be financially and emotionally responsible for. But now when you have parents and stepparents and each parent remarries, you could have four or five people that you feel emotionally and financially responsible for.

“Start a conversation with your parents about what they envision their later decades to be like. I also highly recommend getting out a video camera and asking them questions about what life was like when they were young. This is going to be the most priceless possession you’ll ever own.

“Ask them what life was like when they were a child. What was life like when your parents met? And when you’re going down this road, make sure you get all the health details of who had polyps and who died of colon cancer. You’ll get it as long as you take them down Memory Lane. Because the older you get, the more you connect with your past. You might not remember what you had for lunch but you can remember a lot about your young life.”

-Joan Lunden, journalist and caregiving advocate