Meditation, mindfulness and other calming practices have been shown to be good for older adults’ health in various ways. Here’s how meditation can contribute to active senior living, along with some senior friendly meditation tips and practices to get you started:
Meditation’s health benefits
There has been much research on the health benefits of meditation for older adults, including both emotional and physical health.
Mindfulness meditation can reduce loneliness
A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training decreases middle aged adult’s loneliness. The researchers assessed the loneliness levels, using an established scale, of 40 adults in good health between the ages of 55 and 85, and also took blood samples. Half of the participants were trained using the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) while the other half were given no treatment. The MBSR program involved weekly two-hour meetings during which participants worked toward understanding how to attend to their emotions and were taught body awareness techniques that included breathing and noticing sensations. Participants also attended a day-long retreat and were asked to meditate each day on their own for 30 minutes.
At the end of eight weeks, the researchers took a second round of blood samples and assessed loneliness levels again. They found that those who had mindfulness meditation training were not only less lonely, but they also had reduced levels of indicators in their blood for inflammatory disease risk.
These results are important because many older adults are affected by loneliness, often due to untreated hearing loss. Much research shows that loneliness is detrimental to heart health and cognition. This new research shows that regular meditations can protect against loneliness and inflammatory disease risk for older adults.
Physical health benefits of meditation
Other research has shown that meditation is good for physical health as well, including reducing inflammation, respiratory infections, insomnia and stress.
One practice that has gained much attention is tai chi – an ancient Chinese practice that involves slow and focused movements in combination with deep breathing. This meditative movement is still very popular in China and other Asian countries today. Tai chi is appealing for older adults because it is low-impact and thus easy on the joints. Additionally, it is inexpensive and requires no special equipment. As long as you learn basic moves and a routine, you can practice tai chi both indoors or outside, provided you have the requisite space.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is some evidence that tai chi can:
- lower cholesterol and blood pressure
- boost the immune system
- improve muscle strength
- enhance sleep quality
- improve joint pain
- decrease anxiety and stress
- reduce the risk of falls
- increase flexibility and balance
If you want to do tai chi or mindfulness meditation to improve your health, you can check to see if your local gym or senior center offers classes. You will likely also be able to find instructions online, including YouTube videos, that can help you start your meditation practice.