From birth to old age, there are different stages of development and transitions. Supporting people well through each new stage is important.
Human development continues throughout our lives. We grow, and we change. It’s a normal process that’s reasonably predictable, because overall, most people tend to grow and develop at similar rates.
The average human life span falls into nine stages:
- prenatal development
- infancy and toddlerhood
- early childhood
- middle childhood
- early adulthood
- middle adulthood
- late adulthood
- dying and death.
We all go through some extraordinary transitions which affect our bodies, behaviour, emotions, and social interactions. Our brain re-wires itself several times throughout a life time. We keep on changing, even if we like to think we’re always just the same.
Learning about the different ages and stages helps us to understand ourselves better, and others too. We can see how people’s needs change at different points in their life. We can also become more attuned and responsive to the needs of any children, teens, or elders in our care. We can begin to see things from their point of view more. The stages, in other words, give us some helpful points of reference, as we observe people maturing, and to give them support along the way.
The transitions between any of these stages can be difficult and challenging for the individual and for their whānau and friends. For example, navigating from middle childhood to adolescence, with the accompanying physical, hormonal, emotional, mental and social changes, is confusing for the individual and those around them.
Understanding the different stages can also help us to recognise signs of concern. If developmental problems are detected early, intervention can begin sooner, which makes for better outcomes. For example, there may be some developmental delay in a young child who needs support to speak. A teenager may struggle to relate with peers and need some socialising skills, or an older person might emotionally struggle when all their children leave the home and they need a new sense of purpose to ward off depression.
Through every age and stage there are some things we will all always need. We need to have our basic physical requirements met, be safe from harm, have good connections with others, love and belonging, and be able to develop our personal and cultural identities and strengths. We also need support from others when we are in distress.
Our families, whānau and communities are the most resilient when people can support each other’s needs well, through every age and stage.