Christine Webber

The other day, I heard someone utter six words that are among the most depressing and defeatist in the English language. They are: “I’m too old to change now”.

I’d like us all, here and now, to agree that we’re going to outlaw this phrase from our vocabulary.

I know life is complicated and it can feel quite onerous to have to deal with so many new ideas, the latest technology, money worries and so on.

But if we give messages to our own brain, and to other people, that we’re too old to change, we’re on a very slippery slope. So, let’s not do that. 

Naturally, we won’t manage every single task in life.

Frankly, there was never a time when we could.

However, many of the activities that we find difficult are also problematic for people born long after us.

As I was making heavy weather of finding my downloaded tickets in some app or other at a railway station recently, a woman of around 40 said to me: “Oh God, I can’t deal with apps. I have to have a paper ticket”.

That made me feel much better. 

But though we moan about them, let us be grateful that we can still cope well with most complexities of modern-day living.

It’s not so long ago, that the brain was thought to be incapable of growth once we were adults.

Now, because of major scientific developments in neuroplasticity, and the advanced scanning techniques available, we know it’s possible to form new connections and build healthy volume in our brains well into our dotage. In other words, we can change and learn throughout life. So, let’s do that. 

Actually, we deal with change all the time, and often it’s because it’s thrust upon us.

For example, currently, you can’t move in East Anglia for road works, so most of us are having to drive on routes that differ from normal. And we do it, even if we find it irritating.  

Each day brings new challenges. Some we will manage and some we will not. But we certainly won’t cope as well as we should, if we tell ourselves we’re too old.  

It’s true that some tasks feel extra hard; getting to grips with a new phone or installing a printer come pretty near the top of my list.

However, even those are doable – even if sometimes we need assistance. There’s no disgrace, by the way, in seeking help. The stupid alternative is to be too proud to ask for it.  

So, we should be open to change and to grasping new challenges – and this is especially crucial when it comes to health because if people decide they’re too old to alter habits that are making them sick or immobile, that’s really an appalling waste of their quality of life.  

An overweight woman, said to me the other day: “If I open a box of chocolates, I have to eat them all. I can’t stop myself. I won’t change now”.   

I know we’ve all said stuff like that – but it’s rubbish. And we’re old enough to know better. 

If I were in a position to bargain with this woman, and offer her a million pounds if she stuck to having just one chocolate a day, could she do it? Of course she could. And would. 

Often, people genuinely believe that, unlike other adults, they can’t reduce their alcoholic or food intake, or give up smoking.

But there’s no evidence for their beliefs.

Usually, these individuals are no more special, frail or different from the rest of the population.

Furthermore, there’s a lot of help around these days to support folk in improving their health. Despite this, and much to their own detriment, they prefer to stick to the inflexible thought that I’m too old to change.   

Interestingly, I know several men and woman who ignored all medical advice until they had serious health scares.

In every case, this brush with their own mortality caused all their former protestations that they could never change to fly out the window.

One woman I know who always drank a bottle of wine a day, reduced her tally to a couple of glasses a week. A couple of former colleagues gave up smoking in the past five years and are still very much with us.

And an obese friend of mine lost four stone when he was diagnosed with diabetes. He’s now slim and healthy, which is marvellous.

What’s sad though is that he regrets his failure to clean up his act 30 years ago when, as a dad to small children, he was too overweight to kick a ball around with them in the park. 

I’m afraid it’s human nature to leave tough changes till pretty late in the day.

Luckily for us, no matter what our age, we can nearly always effect some improvement.

But the best thing we can do for ourselves is to stop maintaining we’re too old to alter our lifestyles.

When we do that, we’re more likely to age positively and make the changes we need to live well for longer.