Of the six life skills critical to success in later life embracing change is often seen as the most challenging. Why? Well at one level it is self evident – the world is changing so rapidly that we are constantly evolving and adapting just to keep up – over time that takes its toll.
Perhaps its importance is best understood by looking at the end of life – it that final chapter of life described by the Oxford Institute of Aging as ‘Frail Old Age’, and crudely defined as that last stage in life when ‘whatever is going to get you in the end starts to emerge’. This stage of life is typically reasonably short – typically anything from six months to three years with an average of 18 months. By the time it is reached any and all change is difficult and there is a strong preference to cling on to the old and familiar.
Two examples, one close to home. My Mum came from an internationally diverse family that, throughout her life, kept in contact by those flimsy blue airmail letters. As email arrived she opted not to embrace the technology, despite our best efforts. As a result I watched as she became increasingly detached from a major support network – her siblings and their families all around the world. On a positive note a friend described how his octogenarian mother, after many years of resisting mobile phones, suddenly and dramatically embraced texting. On taking deliver of her new phone she explained that she had noticed that she was not being invited to join the bridge games that were central to he social life. She asked her friends if she had done something wrong. The response – the games were increasingly being arranged by text and she didn’t have a mobile – not for long!