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The Benefits of Meditation for Seniors

— by Michelle Gonzalez in Health, Fitness and Wellness
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Meditation generally involves deep breathing and relaxation techniques to achieve a state of complete awareness where the mind is cleared and tension is released from the body. This practice is a safe and efficacious way to improve one’s concentration, promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate depression. In fact, several studies have proven the many health benefits that meditation can do for one’s physiological, psychological, and sociological well-being, including seniors.

There are countless different meditation techniques and here we focus on mindfulness meditation which engages the body, breath, and thoughts and focuses attention to the present experience. Mindfulness meditations are often practiced in a quiet, peaceful setting, inspiring overall feelings of well-being by connecting oneself with purpose.

Here are the many benefits seniors can achieve with mindful meditation:

Improves Memory

Meditation helps sharpen and focus the mind. It stimulates the Hippocampus and the frontal brain lobes in the brain, which store long term and short term memory, improving long and short term memory. Simply put, meditation helps in improving an aging person’s ability to store new and old memories, as well as their overall brain function. Increased mental alertness allows seniors to better function in society, making one’s senior years just as rewarding as their other life phases.

Reduces Inflammation

According to a research conducted by UCLA, meditation helps reduce inflammation in practicing elderly individuals. This also leads to a reduced risk for certain diseases and psychological disorders that are associated with chronic inflammation, including lower risk for heart disease.

Improves Circulation

Deep breathing exercises are instrumental in improving circulation and blood oxygen enrichment, providing extra help to all of the body’s organs, including the stomach and intestines. Seniors with digestive problems have noticed immediate relief after they have decided to incorporate meditation into their daily lives. Meditation also boosts the immune system.

Manages Chronic Pain

Meditation is also an effective method for chronic pain management, reducing the intensity of the pain by activating specific areas of the brain which are related to pain processing. And, contrary to the misconception that meditation is a difficult skill that requires years of practice to be effective, even beginners are able to experience the benefits of meditation, although skill level eventually improves over time.

Strengthens the Immune System

A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on immune function. An entry in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal came to a similar finding, affirming that the evident effect on the immune function was strong enough to stress the need for additional research.

Alleviates Stress

Long term stress in senior individuals may be due to a variety of causes, such as chronic illness, disability, or the loss of a spouse. Stress and end-of-life anxiety are two challenging aging and quality of life factors that are significantly reduced once a retiree starts a meditation program. A lot of experts regard meditation as the “fountain of youth” for both the body and brain, and older individuals can receive so many benefits from it.

Reduces Depression

Mindfulness meditation activates the happy part of the brain, stimulating the “feel good” prefrontal cortex brain region. Older individuals who suffer from depression experience heightened feelings of happiness, reducing negative feelings and replacing them with happier, more positive emotions. The practice of meditation clears the mind of negative energy and directs its focus on things that bring happiness to the individual.

Eases Sleep Problems

In a recent study led by David Black, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, researchers found that among 49 older individuals with sleep problems, those who practiced mindfulness meditation started to sleep better within six weeks. Compare to their counterparts who were given conventional lessons on good sleeping habits, those who meditated experienced better results.

These physical, emotional, and psychological benefits leave very small room for saying no to mindfulness meditation. Indeed, this is something that I greatly recommend to seniors, so they can make the most of their retirement years.

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