Kate Stockman is an old friend of Kathleen’s who has found some keys to staying young through the Ageless Grace program. This is a guest post from Kate.

I turned 60 years young this year, and while 60 is the new 40, I am still recognizing differences in my body and brain, both of which are slowing down. I see positive models of aging all around me and wonder how to maintain youthfulness as I age.

We all want to age gracefully. We are living longer than ever before. Our health care sciences are making miraculous discoveries, replacing organs, recognizing the connection between the mind and the body, and integrating alternative health care and traditional health care to combine the best of all possibilities.

At the same time, we have other global trends that adversely affect healthy maturing, such as less healthy food and eating too much of it, more air and water pollution, and a greater degree of sustained stress (the silent killer).

So what can each of us do to maintain – or even improve – our physical and mental health?

We can practice Ageless Grace.

Ageless Grace is the brainchild of Denise Medved, an amazing woman who lives in Western North Carolina. Denise spent seven years developing this system of 21 simple tools for lifelong comfort and ease based on neuroplasticity. She jokes that it took her that long to turn brain science into child’s play.

Watch this TEDx talk that Denise recently gave:

When she first started exploring neuroplasticity, Denise found only two references in Google; now there are about 1.6 million. Medicine.net defines neuroplasticity as “the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.”  It works by growing new nerve endings that can connect with other undamaged nerve cells, forming new neural pathways. When I was growing up, I learned that our brain cannot repair itself or replace neural cells, so this discovery is the stuff of miracles as far as I am concerned.

There are lots of ways people try to keep their brains and bodies as young as possible. Brain games, exercise routines and more are aggressively marketed ways to keep our brains and bodies hopping

But to improve our brain function, we need to combine physical movement with the brain in meaningful ways.

Ageless Grace activates all 5 functions of the brain (SMACK):

  1. Strategic Planning
  2. Memory Recall
  3. Analytical Thinking
  4. Creativity and Imagination
  5. Kinesthetic Learning

There are 21 tools in the program, each designed by Denise to affect and interact with brain functions as well as strengthen the physical body.

But before I discuss these tools, let me talk a bit about exercise programs. Did you know that exercise programs only started about 70 or so years ago?  After WWII as our culture became more focused on commerce rather than agriculture, exercise classes began springing up; they imitated military boot camp training whose goal was to increase endurance and stamina quickly. “No pain, no gain” was and continues to be the mantra for many exercise programs. Well-intentioned people of all ages sign up for exercise classes, but many eventually drop out because of 3 reasons:

  1. Boredom with the routine
  2. Time
  3. Expense

With Ageless Grace, there is no boredom because each tool changes every time you use it (which stimulates the Creativity and Imagination function of the brain). And it only takes 10 minutes a day… and there is no on-going expense to practice it in your own home. (You can purchase a book, a DVD and a card set in order to learn more on your own about Ageless Grace, but after that there is no expense.)

Ageless Grace is done seated in a chair (preferably with arms). The main reason for this is so that participants will most efficiently use and strengthen their core muscles from the hip flexors to the top of the head. This involves our vital organs, moving energy throughout our bodies and activating the circulation and other systems. The tools improve spinal flexibility, mobility, and right/left coordination. Sitting in a chair also ensures that anyone with balance issues will have a solid foundation from which to move. And range of motion is increased when using a chair.

The tools are done to music – which can change from day to day. You can even turn on the radio to your favorite music station and just do three of the tools to the next three songs that are played – which makes the exercises more fun.

Since songs are typically about 3 to 4 minutes in length, then doing 3 tools to 3 songs will ensure that you will be practicing Ageless Grace for about 10 minutes each day. Since there are 21 tools, over 7 days, you will practice all 21 exercises. So while you can time yourself with a clock, just using music will keep you at about 10 minutes a day.

Ageless Grace is developmental, preventative, and restorative.

There are 32 muscles and 26 bones in each foot – as well as 7000 nerve endings!  And there are 34 muscles, at least 123 ligaments, and 29 bones in each hand. Most people in elder care facilities are there because they can’t use their feet or hands effectively for activities of daily living. After participating in Ageless Grace classes at her elder care facility, an 87-year-old lady said to her educator, “For the first time in years, I felt my feet!”  Imagine the excitement of that!

Ageless Grace works by re-opening the neural pathways that were created from the time you were born until about the age of 21. You developed functional and cognitive skills through typical childhood games, sports, and activities that are now no longer practiced as adults. The 21 tools of Ageless Grace re-open these pathways and – equally important – create new ones by practicing functional movements we don’t already know how to do.

Practicing, remembering and learning these simple skills allow positive results to come surprisingly quickly – much like remembering how to ride a bicycle after many years. These aspects of movement combine as the process of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain and nervous system to change structurally and functionally) and are vital to active aging and youthful function.

All ages and abilities can practice Ageless Grace. Educators never encourage anyone to try to extend past their own comfort level. Senior citizens, Baby boomers, young adults, and those with weight, joint, diabetes and other health challenges such as those in wheelchairs or other conditions can all benefit from these 21 tools. Ageless Grace also provides a great multigenerational program for grandparents, adult children and grandchildren to share.

And kids love it!  4Ever Fit 4 Kidz is also making a positive difference with our children!

Tragically, the CDC has said that this generation of children is the first that is not expected to outlive their parents because of poor health: obesity, diabetes, etc. born of poor habits, obsessive focus on computers instead of outdoor activity, etc. Poor funding of education has eliminated many of the PE classes that offered movement and activities for school youth. This national trend is partly responsible for the shocking statistics of our youth developing health challenges – including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and emotional distress. And for various reasons, our students are having more difficulty sitting still and paying attention in their classrooms.

Imagine if each day teachers were able to lead 10 minutes of 4Ever Fit 4 Kidz exercises to their students! (Get more info at www.agelessgrace.com) What a great investment of their time and energy to provide a more healthy and focused day to their students!  It’s a win/win. A no-brainer.

Ageless Grace is a profound body of work that provides amazing results in all ages, yet it is simple to learn, playful, easy to do, and FUN!  It very well may change the model of aging in America and change the quality of function in your own future. And I don’t doubt that AG will change the model of aging globally:  in the four years since its launch, there are over 2000 AG educators world-wide, from Australia to Canada to South Africa to Singapore to the United Kingdom and in every state in the U.S. as well as the District of Columbia.

Change your own aging process so that you can age gracefully – physically and mentally. We have a training here in Hendersonville, NC the last weekend in September. Or join a local class and see what you think. I promise you will have fun and feel better!

Check it all out at www.agelessgrace.com. May we all age gracefully.

More from Kathleen on aging gracefully: