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'Real need': Ageless Grace program helping to slow cognitive decline

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A dementia expert has restarted a science-based program for seniors to help slow cognitive decline.

Vicki Doolan, from Palmview, began teaching the Caloundra-based class in 2015 after watching a demonstration of the body and brain exercises that are designed to improve strategic planning, memory, analytical thinking, creativity, imagination and kinaesthetic learning in seniors.

“I think there’s a real need for it; we are training a lot more people over Australia to teach it and it will play a big role in the healthy ageing sector,” she said.

“It also provides people with socialisation, which is good for mental health.”

Ageless Grace’s founder Denise Medved struggled with health issues throughout her life, including spina bifida, which causes spinal pain.

At 22 she was in a hospital awaiting surgery, however, with the surgery she could expect to be wheelchair-bound by 40.

Her “brainiac” mother also suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which inspired her to create the classes.

“At about the same time I was wondering how this could be, Harvard University did a study that showed crossword puzzles and brain games do not delay cognitive decline because they only effect three functions of the brain,” Ms Medved said.

Ageless Grace promotes healthy ageing based on neuroplasticity. Picture: Shutterstock

The 68-year-old now lives pain-free and developed Ageless Grace to promote healthy ageing based on the science of neuroplasticity, which activates the five functions of the brain and also addresses the 21 skills needed for lifelong function.

The Ageless Grace class in Caloundra was reopened this year after COVID-19 shut it down in 2020.

Ms Doolan was asked to do a class for the Sunshine Coast Dementia Network, which kickstarted the regular classes again.

She said she was hoping it can expand because there is a need for it.

“There’s a big demand in the dementia area because of cognition support,” she said.

“We have a disability sector too.

“One fellow’s parents said he would pay anything; they do not care how much it costs because he has such a great time.”

Vicki Doolan says the program can benefit the healthy ageing sector.

The biggest success Ms Doolan has seen is a man whose right side was paralysed from a stroke and after one year of attending, he gained some movement in his right foot.

“The brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re doing and what you’re imagining you’re doing, so we used to get him to close his eyes when we were doing the right side of the body,” she said.

“We would get him to imagine he was doing it.”

There are now more than 3400 educators worldwide.

“I saw that need for the elderly that aren’t capable of doing a full exercise class,” Ms Doolan said.

“It will play a big role in the healthy ageing sector.”

The class is held every Thursday at the CWA Hall in Caloundra. Tickets are $5 for healthcare card holders and $10 for people without one.

Click here for more information.

Mia Ludwig is a University of the Sunshine Coast Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) graduate.

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