Mindfulness has long been known to have a positive impact on those who practice it. Many people associate mindfulness with Buddhism because the concept draws a lot from the religion, but people of all belief systems use mindfulness to live happier, less anxious lives. Mindfulness is not just about meditation; it’s about being present in every moment of your life. However, meditation facilitates mindfulness, so there are many benefits to your senior parent incorporating meditation into their routine.
One study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found evidence to suggest that practicing mindfulness and transcendental meditation improved longevity in the elderly. The study followed a large group of seniors and found that those who meditated were less likely to have died at the completion of the study. Another study from the National Institutes of Health found that meditation may prevent cellular aging, which may contribute to the additional longevity.
There is also evidence that mindfulness meditation decreases loneliness, or rather, promotes interconnectedness. One UCLA study of seniors who engaged in an eight-week meditation program reported significantly less loneliness at the end. Loneliness and isolation is a major problem for the senior population, often decreasing their quality of life, so this research shows a lot of promise. The theory is that meditation inhibits gene inflammation, which has been correlated with loneliness.
Much research has been done that supports the idea that meditation improves your mood. In one study of seniors in Thailand, researchers implemented walking therapy for two groups of seniors: one that used a meditation component, and one that did not. Those in the meditation group saw much better outcomes than their solely walking counterparts. Walking meditation has shown benefits for reducing depression and improving cardiovascular health and fitness.
May Slow Alzheimer’s
There is research that supports the idea that meditation may slow down the progression of dementia. A double-blind study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that seniors who meditated and used breathing exercises to reduce stress showed fewer signs of the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Reduces Healthcare Costs
Meditation benefits seniors’ health, but also may help them financially. One study from the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality found that seniors who practiced meditation had fewer hospitalizations than those who did not. The meditation group’s payments were 70 percent less than the non-meditating group over the course of five years.
Benefits Caregivers, Too
Meditation not only helps your senior parent; it can help you as their caregiver as well. A separate UCLA study looked into caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and found caregivers who practiced brief daily meditation reduced stress and anxiety. Given the profound impact that caring for this population can have on mental and physical health due to stress, meditation could be a good coping mechanism to incorporate into your life.
Now the challenge is how do we have our older loved ones practice mindfulness, when it all still sounds a bit elusive and probably fairly foreign to them? The key is to slowly incorporate it in subtle ways and approach it in a less intimidating manner. Perhaps engage in the mindfulness exercises along with your loved one. It is of course something all of us could benefit from, especially if you are a caregiver for your loved one, as caregiving can be incredibly challenging.
The following are examples of mindfulness exercises (from The Benefits of Mindful Meditation for Older Adults– and How to Get Started – Seniors Matter)
1.) Mindfulness Meditation
The beauty of mindfulness meditation is your loved can do it all from sitting in their chair. So it’s perfect for those who may have mobility issues. YouTube is a great resource for a variety of guided imagery and/ or guided meditations, along with different applications on your phone or computer. The goal with meditation is not to strive to be perfect at it, since your mind will always wander. The goal is to carve out time to simply “be” and to check-in with yourself.
2.) Deep Breathing
Have your loved one find a relaxing comfortable position seated and have them begin to take deep diaphragmatic breaths. An example would be to start with some exaggerated breaths – a deep inhale through your nose for 3 seconds and a deep exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. There are a lot of resources online of different ways to practice deep breathing. This can be incorporated into the meditations and not necessarily done separately.
3.) Raisin Exercise
With this exercise you really can use any sort of food item. But the goal is for you loved one to focus on one single object, bringing their mind to the present. So you could be the facilitator, as you ask your loved one to pay attention to the way the raisin looks, how it feels, how their skin responds to its manipulation, as well as how it smells and tastes. There are also examples of how to do this exercise online.
4.) Mindful Seeing
Have your loved one observe nature through a window with some kind of a view. Again, the idea is having their mind focus on the present – paying attention to the grass, leaves, breeze, colors, shapes etc. They are only to be an observer, not judging or being critical of what they see.
5.) Mindful Movement
There are a variety of gentle stretching exercises that can be done all from a chair. But before doing any movements or stretches, please consult with your loved one’s doctor to ensure it is safe to do.
6.) Listen to Peaceful/Relaxing Music
This can be something that is in the background during any of the above exercises. Let your loved one make the selection, picking something that resonates with them. This way they are involved in the process.
The important thing to keep in mind when trying any of the above exercises is that with any exercise, it will take some time and practice before seeing any benefits. Choose one or two that works best for you and your loved one to try.
At Gulfshore Home Care, we are dedicated to giving our clients the help they need to live their best lives, including meditation.
We are located in the areas of Naples, North Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and Marco Island. Please do not hesitate to give us a call at 239-249-8318
With our home health care in Collier and Lee Counties you will be able to live a happy, safe, and independent life. We invite you read more about our services and about us. Every situation is unique, so to have all of your specific questions answered with personalized information from a friendly local home care expert, call 239-249-8318 now!