You may have heard the well- known story about a frog in hot water. Apparently if you put a frog in a pot of regular water and slowly warm it up, the frog will slowly adapt to the change in temperature and eventually perish when the temperature rises beyond bearable. If you took another frog, and dropped it into the pot of hot water, it would instantly hop out to escape the dangerous environment.
It is a great story illustrating the difficulty with change. If change is gradual and barely noticeable, we tend to remain in the place of comfort, follow the path of least resistance and remain blissfully unaware of the consequences of change. What was good for yesterday remains the same today and will be the same again tomorrow. Or at least we hope it will be.
One of the greatest changes we face in life is the change associated with ageing. At first we welcome change, hardly being able to wait to become adults. In our twenties we are indestructible, in our thirties we become more vulnerable as we realise that children are hard work. In our forties we assume our financial and social responsibilities as we climb the ladders of success often stalling to have a midlife crisis. And then it is downhill. First a bit of arthritis and then an occasional ache and pain. Illness becomes more common and by the time we are eighty we are a reminder of our human limitation of living threescore years and ten.
Ageing is gradual and we rarely stop to think about the consequences of ageing. Put an eighteen year old into an eighty-year-old body and expect the frog to leap out of the water. At eighty we are so used to being seventy- nine that we don’t realise the change that occurs. Joints stiffen, muscles become weaker, concentration is poorer, vision deteriorates, hearing is duller and overall life needs to move into the slow lane a bit more. It does not mean that all eight year olds struggle, but for the majority, the shoelaces are out of reach.
Here is the newsflash. Unless we are struck down by an unexpected misfortune we are all going to grow old. We will lose our ability, vitality and independence. We will require increasing assistance, as we get older. We will all eventually become frail and as a consequence of aging and age related disease have to inevitably face dying. We remain in a pot of slowly heating water.
So what plan do you have in place?
The easiest plan is to do nothing. There is no way to escape the hot water so why not enjoy it for as long as possible? Cross the bridge when you get there. There is no point in worrying about something we cant fix.
The more difficult plan is to prepare for the anticipated events so that as they occur you are one step ahead. Plan for the retirement village when you are still well enough to make the move. Chose one that will suit your lifestyle rather than be forced into a crummy place when you are no longer able to make your own decisions. Sell your house at the peak price when you are in control of your circumstances rather than have a fire sale because you have had a stroke and can no longer cope. Plan to do activities that make life fun and enjoyable in old age rather than sit around mourning the memory of youth that has long passed.
Plan to interact with children and grandchildren. Become involved in activities that are possible. Make sure that when life slows down, that you are aware of the many opportunities that arise in the slow lane.
And when the time comes to face dying, do so with an acceptance that comes from having lived a full life. Seek the hope that comes from expecting life after death.
If you cant change the future, change yourself to be able to meet the future.