How mindful-meditation improves
quality of life for older adults
Older adults could greatly improve the quality of their life by practicing mindful-meditation. But they’re often unaware of the benefits. Or, they have negative preconceived notions about it. Or, they don’t know how to get started.
Many older adults struggle with chronic pain, interrupted sleep, and fear of dementia. Now they have even more stress from the Covid situation. They’re contending with isolation, loneliness, and anxiety like never before.
Studies have shown that meditation lowers heart rate and blood pressure. It decreases stress, improves sleep, digestion, and cognitive focus. All the things older folks desire.
That’s why many doctors are now “prescribing” mindful-meditation to their geriatric patients.
Not enough 70 and 80-year-olds practice meditation regularly.
I think we can do a better job of educating about the benefits of mindful-meditation. We can help older adults overcome negative preconceived notions. And, we can help them get started wherever they live by helping them access resources.
What are some of the benefits of mindful-meditation?
One of the greatest benefits of mindful-meditation is sharper mental focus. Regular practice causes the brain’s physical structure to change.
The amygdala is the region of the brain responsible for processing emotions. Stress, anxiety, and worry cause it to shrink. In mindful-meditation ‘happy’ chemicals are released in the brain. The amygdala can do its job better.
And at the same time, meditation activates the prefrontal cortex causing it to grow. This area handles self-awareness, planning, and decision making.
That’s why people who meditate say their focus improved.
Mindful-meditation helps with both long and short-term memory. It stimulates the memory centers within the brain. Many older adults worry about losing their memory and cognitive function as they age. Adding the practice to their daily routine can help ward off confusion or dementia.
Meditation reduces stress, improves sleep, and aids digestion by lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
According to Medical News Today. In this study, participants committed to 12 weeks of 12 minutes a day doing simple mindful-meditation. They reported improved mood, sleep, and quality of life.
Learn more here: Meditation for Older Adults
Why might some older adults resist mindful-meditation?
An older generation might think of meditation as part of the “hippie” or “new-age” generation. They might think of mindful-meditation as spiritual woo-woo. Or, they may resist what they feel conflicts with their beliefs.
Some older folks might think that meditating means sitting cross-legged on the floor. Or getting into some special yoga pose. They’re afraid they won’t be able to unbend or get back up!
Mindfulness & Meditation - anytime, any where
Good news! You can practice meditation while seated in a comfortable chair or lying down in bed. It can even be done standing or when taking a walk. Even if you have mobility/agility issues, you can practice mindful-meditation.
Meditation basically involves intentional breathing exercises. You focus inward. You begin with deep breathing, bringing all your awareness to your breath. Inhales and exhales. You consciously focus on just your breathing. As other thoughts come, you gently release them and let them go.
When meditating, you typically spend a focused chunk of time tuned inward. Anywhere from a minute to an hour or more.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is the simple act of paying attention to “some-thing”. Noticing and being present in whatever you’re doing. Mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day. Whereas, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time.
When we go about our daily lives, most of us let our minds wander while doing an activity. We follow our thoughts down rabbit trails. Have you ever driven home from the store and don’t remember the actual trip? Your mind was wandering.
When you practice mindfulness, you’re actively involved in the activity with all of your senses. You notice and focus on the taste, smell, touch, and sounds of the activity. Taking a walk can be done mindfully.
As you can see, mindfulness and meditation are often used interchangeably. While they have many similarities and overlap, they’re not exactly the same.
So, many practitioners combine the two into mindful-meditation.
How can older adults get started?
If something seems too hard, we won’t do it. The key is making mindful-meditation no-brainer-easy.
Establish the habit first. Start with the most basic super-small first step: sitting in a chair at a specific time for 15 seconds. Then slowly add more steps. Then improve it.
It’s not hard to find resources these days because mindful-meditation is a hot topic. Everyone is feeling extra stress.
You can find countless free how-to guides for beginning meditators online. Many of these guides apply to seniors too.
Check out these guides by Mindworks:
You can also search YouTube for helpful how-to guides.
Mindful-Meditation in Senior Living:
Now days, many senior communities have added mindful-meditation sessions to their wellness programs.
If you’re planning a move to senior living, ask if they have a mindful-meditation class.
Or, if you or your loved one already live in a senior community, ask if a class or training is available. If not, ask if it can be added. Or volunteer to help.
And, if there already is an established mindful-meditation class, thank the leader!
And now, over to you
The evidence is overwhelming. Mindful-meditation can improve quality of life for older adults. Let’s get more of our elders involved in this no-cost simple practice. Mindful-meditation can help them improve their focus, cognition, physical, and emotional health.
We can help them learn about the benefits, get connected to resources, and lead the way by example.
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