Meditation for Senior Health

Interim HealthCare Blogs
Posted: 7/22/2019 1:43 PM by Interim HealthCare

Meditation is a hot topic these days, with more attention being given to the use of meditation by seniors. And with good reason!

Meditation is a well-studied practice shown to have many health benefits. It's commonly prescribed as a way to help treat chronic disease and mood disorders. That makes meditation a natural fit when older age brings physical, mental and emotional changes, according to Dr. Stephanie Cheng, a palliative care physician in the division of geriatrics at the University of California—San Francisco.

Several areas of research show encouraging results for older adults:

  • Memory. Studies have shown that guided meditation can slow shrinkage of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that’s responsible for memory, which means a reduction in its size can negatively affect senior health. "Meditation is associated with enhanced short- and long-term memory," says neuropsychologist Jean Lengenfelder, assistant director of traumatic brain injury research at the Kessler Foundation.
  • Cognitive decline. "Meditation may help preserve cognitive function in folks who are starting to have struggles with memory and cognition. It's associated with maintaining function longer than if you didn't have a meditation practice," says psychologist Moria Smoski, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Health. A 2014 review of a dozen studies involving older adults, published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, suggested that meditation was linked to positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed and general cognition.
  • Inflammation. People between the ages of 55 and 85 who participated in an eight-week meditation program had a reduction in inflammation, as measured by their C-reactive protein levels.
  • Digestion and circulation. "One study found that people who meditated had improved circulation and oxygen in their blood. For the elderly, that's important because as we age, digestion and circulation problems develop," Lengenfelder says.
  • Stress. "Meditation has been shown to decrease stress and have a calming effect on older adults," Lengenfelder notes. "That can help them organize their thinking and give them a clearer perspective. They have improved focus, and their mind is sharp."
  • Loneliness. A 2012 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity linked eight weeks of mindfulness meditation with decreased loneliness in older adults.

How to get started

I found a couple great resources to help you get started using meditation!

  • UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has some great guided imagery meditations found here. You’ll also find tons of other information on their site as well.
  • University of Michigan Medicine Rogel Cancer Center has great podcasts to help you get started here. They also have a nifty guided imagery library sorted by situation/ need!
  • The Daily Meditation Podcast by Mary Meckley, found here, is one of my favorites. She is straightforward and genuine, like you’re listening to a friend. There are weekly themes, so there’s always something new and different to listen to.

Meditation has been such a great resource for people of all ages! I hope you give it a try, and I hope you share this information with the seniors in your life!
Blessings and peace to you and happy meditating, friends!

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