The idea of meditating may seem strange to many older Americans but once they understand the benefits, they may be convinced it’s worth a look. Mindfulness meditation, which involves deep breathing, relaxation techniques and a focus on the present, is the most widely used form of meditation in the US.

This kind of meditation can include sitting still and emptying the mind but it also includes activities that clear the mind and focus on the present including walking, listening to music, mindfully eating food, etc. Since these kinds of activities are not so strange to the elderly, the basics of meditation can be introduced and possible benefits won’t be far behind.

Mental Health Benefits of Meditation for the Elderly

1. Reducing Feelings of Loneliness - In a UCLA study that included a 30-day mindful meditation regime that taught focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past or fretting about the future, participants reported a drop in the feeling of loneliness. In addition, blood tests showed a drop in the expression of inflammatory-related genes shown to be related to increased feelings of loneliness.

2. Alleviating Stress - Even a small amount of meditation has been shown to reduce stress as shown in results from a test done at Carnegie Mellon University, lead author J. David Creswell.

3. Managing Chronic Pain - Chronic pain can be devastating, not only physically but also mentally. There can be a mental downward spiral when plagued with questions such as: What happens if I don’t get better? What if it gets worse? These questions that can spiral out of control can actually make the pain worse. But with mindfulness meditation techniques the mind can be calmed and the pain reduced. According to a Psychology Today article, clinical trials have shown individuals can reduce chronic pain by 57% using mindfulness meditation and advanced meditators can reduce it by over 90%.

Physical Benefits of Meditation for the Elderly

1. Reducing Inflammation - According to a study published in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Journal, mindfulness training can help reduce chronic ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), psoriasis, and asthma.

2. Improving Circulation - According to a study reported in the American Heart Journal, mindfulness training improves depression and symptoms of chronic heart failure.

3. Insomnia - Lack of sleep can disrupt quality of life and lead to increased risk of heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure. In a study reported by the National Institute of Health, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) offered significant improvements in total sleep time and in reduced sleep onset.

Helping an aging relative open up to the idea of meditation can start them on a path to improving their quality of life. And it isn’t just for the elderly. Caregivers can use the same techniques to reduce stress and increase wellness in their own lives too.

Sources:

UCLA study

Alleviating Stress

Managing Chronic Pain

Reducing Inflammation: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Journal

Improving circulation

Insomnia National Institute for Health study