‘Why don’t you hire a van and drive the chest of drawers from the Derbyshire Dales to Norwich? It’ll be cheaper than sending it with a Man with a Van.’ This was a challenge from my daughter, as well as a bright idea to save money.
I fell for the challenge. The woman who showed me the transit van, a larger one than planned as it was now necessary to fit in a large wardrobe as well, was reassuring. ‘It’s easy to drive, like a Vauxhall Astra’, she said, ‘but just remember the length of the box on the back and use the wing mirrors’. ‘Quite’ I thought; that is the point of concern.
Testing the upper limits of both my adrenalin levels and my courage, I set off home to collect the chest of drawers on the single track road over the tops. The fates were with me - no other vehicles and so no reversing to a passing place.
The chest was too heavy for me to move up and down the stairs. I paid a handyman plus mate to move it the day before my journey to Norwich into my absent neighbour’s living room, on the flat. No-one was available on the day itself so I had to work out how to move the chest to the van. Tipping and dragging it on two of its feet was the answer.
The mission had extended to a stop at IKEA to collect the wardrobe. Parking in IKEA and getting out again was the next challenge, sorted by a distant car park with plenty of space. Recent experiences have led me to realize that I can ask for help. The flat pack wardrobe was too heavy for me to move safely onto the trolley. A helpful assistant flipped it into place with expert ease. She advised me find a trolley locker, reverse the van into a loading bay and ask for help again, which I did - job done now until Norwich. I found a large space at some distance from the house but friends who came round later easily moved the furniture upstairs.
This experience led me to reflect how very hard it can be for older single people, particularly those with limiting health issues, to get things done. Age UK quotes the ONS: ‘3.8 million older people live alone (70% of these are women)’ (ONS 2012).
According to a survey in December 2014, 2.9 million older people (65+) in Great Britain feel they have no one to turn to for help and support. Charities like Age UK provide valuable services involving staff and volunteers but younger, fitter people over 65 years may not identify with that demographic.
Addressing this issue can be similar to the process of resolving some leadership challenges. Thinking laterally, researching sources of information and help, and believing that asking for help is not a sign of weakness takes strength and confidence, but ultimately can answer the question: ‘How can I manage this?