For centuries now, meditation has been used to help people feel more at peace. And in recent years, meditation has increased in popularity due to its scientifically-proven benefits. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, the number of adults practicing meditation more than tripled in five years, from 4.1% to 14.2%
Meditation involves training your mind to focus, relax and redirect your thoughts. This mindfulness training can increase awareness and self-reflection, along with improving self-care habits and relationships, according to a study in BMC Geriatrics.
The most common types of meditation include:
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Movement meditation (Yoga)
- Spiritual meditation
- Transcendental meditation
All of these meditation styles are helpful for your mental health. Because these practices require different skills and mindsets, you should consider your needs and personality to find the one that works best for your lifestyle.
Find out more about meditation for senior citizens and how it can help your health in this stage of life.
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10 Ways Meditation Can Benefit Seniors
Meditation helps keep your mind relaxed and engaged, which enables you to age with grace. Meditation can offer some surprising health benefits to seniors who are looking for new pathways to health.
Here are 10 benefits seniors get from meditation:
1. Boosts Immune System
A study published by the National Academy of Sciences says there is some indication that meditation can help build the immune system.
Meditation appears to suppress damaging processes in the body while boosting cortisol levels, which helps the function of the immune system. This can help treat various inflammatory conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Controls Pain
Chronic pain affects 20.4% of adults, according to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That chronic pain increases with age and is highest among seniors 65 and over.
Since our physical perception of pain is directly linked to our minds, it can be raised when we’re under a lot of stress. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to control pain because it allows you to focus on breathing and how the body feels in the present moment.
3. Enhances Strength, Flexibility and Balance
Slow, measured movements in meditation and especially yoga poses can lead to better balance and movement, which can also help prevent falls.
Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, but yoga can help seniors work on balance and strength to avoid them.
4. Helps Stave Off Depression
Meditation can boost the mood and help people overcome depression, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Other research indicates that meditation may be as good as antidepressants to relieve depression in some patients.
5. Improves Sleep
Mantra meditation, or a practice that uses repetitive sounds, can be used as a relaxation technique to promote healthier sleeping habits.
Sleep problems often stem from stress, poor diet, aging or chronic illnesses. But meditation before bedtime releases tension from your body, creating a peaceful state of mind. Research published by JAMA Internal Medicine showed that a group who practiced meditation reported less insomnia, fatigue and other such symptoms.
6. Increases Attention Span
Focused meditation practices can have a tangible effect on the strength and endurance of your attention span. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience says meditation improves attention even in those who have just started meditation programs.
Over an extended period of time, the study says, there will be positive effects on body awareness, emotion regulation and attention span.
7. Lowers Blood Pressure
Meditation may help those with high blood pressure, according to studies cited by the National Institutes of Health. These benefits were seen mostly in those with mild hypertension.
Studies say the techniques of relaxation and light exercise are beneficial to the heart and cardiovascular system.
8. Promotes Mindfulness
Seniors can face many stresses as they age, from moving to nursing homes to adjusting to new daily habits. These changes can create stress, so they can benefit from the meditative effects of mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation for seniors can include yoga or other techniques that teach participants to explore their thoughts and emotions. Practitioners say meditation can help seniors stay connected to the world.
9. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Stress reduction and anxiety reduction are two of the best-known benefits of meditation. A study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry indicates that meditation helps reduce stress response and anxiety because it addresses anxiety disorder symptoms.
During meditation, your mind may be focused on eliminating inner thoughts that tend to cause a strain on your emotional well-being. Having a good state of self-awareness and tranquility will help you manage any symptoms related to stress throughout the day.
10. Stabilizes Memory
Meditation can help slow memory loss. According to a study referenced in the Harvard Gazette, mindfulness meditation for at least 30 minutes a day can increase gray matter in the hippocampus. This part of the brain plays an important role in memory and learning.
Other researchers found that people who meditate regularly can harness the power or feeling of a subconscious mind, giving your brain the ability to retain more information.
How Seniors Can Get Started With Meditation
There are many easy ways for seniors to get started with meditation. There are meditation classes for seniors and different guided meditation exercises. It’s important to adapt meditation techniques that fit with your abilities or limits.
Here are some ways you can begin a meditation program.
Give Yourself Time and Space
A meditation program doesn’t have to take up all your time. While experts recommend meditating for about 20 minutes a day, seniors can make meditation easy by starting small and giving themselves time to get used to the process.
If possible, dedicate a space to your meditation, and use it for nothing else. That way, you can get used to the discipline of meditating.
Shut Out All Distractions
Sit still in a quiet place. Take deep cleansing breaths. Focus on inhaling and exhaling, and start to notice any physical sensations in your body.
Clear your mind and release thoughts. Practice mindfulness, which is being fully aware of the moment you’re in instead of thinking of the past or the future.
Find a Mantra You Can Use
A word, sentence, prayer or motivational phrase can help you begin your meditation. As you get used to meditation, you can use this mantra anywhere you want to deal with anxiety and promote relaxation.
Add Exercise to Your Routine
Yoga, tai chi or other exercise added to the meditation routine can be beneficial. For older adults, low-impact exercise is preferable to something that may strain or stress bones and muscles.
Make Adjustments for Your Abilities
Impaired hearing, cognitive issues and balance problems may limit some seniors. According to a study cited by the National Institutes of Health, at least 50% of people over the age of 80 fall annually. To minimize injury, seniors should adjust their meditation routines.
- If you have a risk of falling or have some difficulty getting up from the floor, try a different position for meditating, such as lying down or sitting in a chair.
- If you have hearing impairment, listen to a meditation podcast or program at a volume that will help you, or get close to the instructor if you’re taking a class.
- If they have dementia, meditation for seniors may include other techniques. These seniors may find guided meditation a better option. That way, they don’t have to struggle to remember the steps taken but instead they can follow simple instructions.
>> Read “ Top 10 Chair Yoga Positions for Seniors”
Try a Health and Wellness App
For seniors that can’t take meditation classes or have no access to other means, try using some of the popular apps for meditation and wellness. There are more than 71,000 health and fitness mobile apps available now, according to Data AI.
Here are some of the most used health and fitness apps in the United States.
- Calm – This app focuses on reducing anxiety, improving focus and promoting self-improvement.
- Fitbit – When paired with a Fitbit smartwatch or tracker, this app can guide you on your health journey.
- Headspace – This app promotes deep breathing, meditation and better sleep practices.
- Meditopia – This app connects you with a coach to tackle your emotional health and reduce stress and anxiety.
- MyFitnessPal – This is a weight loss and fitness app that will help you stay on track to better health.
Health and Wellness at Senior Lifestyle
From chair yoga and gardening to social outings and daily programming, we ensure a well-rounded experience that promotes a healthy senior lifestyle.
Our communities pride themselves in our wellness programs for residents. We believe that mental, physical, spiritual and social health all play roles in enriching the lives of our seniors. We encourage you to learn more about the activities and wellness programs available at Senior Lifestyle communities.