“Twenty-five years ago, if you talked about mindfulness, people looked at you like you were crazy. Now it’s more accepted. This interest in meditation and purpose seems to be a wave driven by the Baby Boomers, who have this desire to control their own lives and embrace aspects of health and wellness and longevity, and wanting to avoid as much as possible the mental and physical deterioration they’ve seen with their parents.”
– Rabbi Richard Address, speaking to Caring.com
Sometimes, meditation gets a bad rap, particularly among people who may be a little more set in their ways.
“What’s so great,” these people say, “about sitting around and thinking about nothing all day?”
But here’s the thing—meditation is an ancient practice, with plenty of proven health benefits in the here and now. And plenty of Boomers and other adults are learning that it can be a powerful force for relieving stress and managing chronic health issues.
Let’s break it down for the skeptics out there, and explore:
- what meditation is
- how it can help older adults live healthier lives
- what you can do to get started
While a lot of older adults may have one vision of what meditation is, the reality is that it may be very different from any preconceived ideas.
Meditation isn’t just one thing, you see. It can take many forms, and it’s an activity that you can adapt to suit your own personal wants and needs.
Some forms of meditation involve little more than focusing on being actively mindful of the people, places, and things around you. Others involve focused breathing, guided visualizations, or stretches. Still others are rooted in ancient religious precepts.
Whatever form of meditation you choose to focus in on, the personal and health benefits could be enormous—particularly for retirees and older adults!
How Meditation Can Help You Live a Healthier Lifestyle
In fact, a growing body of research shows that meditation is one of the very best things that older adults can do for their health!
Still skeptical? Here’s how meditation can help you . . .
1.) Keep Your Memory Sharp
Studies show that meditation can help “increase the strength and endurance of your attention.” Research suggests that mindfulness meditation allows you to focus on specific tasks for longer, and remember details better in the long-term.
At the same time, meditation has been shown to help reduce age-related memory loss; it has also been proven to help improve memory in patients with dementia, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
2.) Lower Stress and Increase Positive Thinking
Over countless studies, meditation and mindfulness have been shown to massively reduce stress and promote relaxation. As the Mayo Clinic puts it, meditation is an effective way to “produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind,” which can “result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.”
3.) Reduce Inflammation
As Senior Planet points out, meditation can help older adults with chronic inflammation. In fact, one study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that “mindfulness-based stress reduction” led to a significant reduction in “C-reactive protein levels,” which can lead to less inflammation throughout the body.
4.) Boost Your Immune System
Different types of meditation practices have been shown to help older adults improve their immune systems and manage a whole host of persistent health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Migraines and tension headaches
5.) Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Having trouble sleeping? Many older adults struggle with insomnia, and a chronic lack of sleep can contribute to a whole host of major health problems over time.
Fortunately, meditation can help! In fact, one study found that practicing meditation helped improve sleep just as well as prescription medicines! After adopting mindfulness techniques, participants in the study were able to fall asleep 20 minutes faster, and get in 30 more minutes of total sleep time, on average.
6.) Foster Social Connections
As we age, many people begin to feel more disconnected and isolated, particularly if mobility issues are a factor. Studies show that meditation can help decrease rates of loneliness among seniors, even when practiced alone! And research has highlighted time and again: the more connected and social we feel, the healthier we are.
7.) Ease Pain
Aches and pains are often thought of as part and parcel of getting older . . . But why should they have to be?
Studies have demonstrated that meditation can help people of all ages manage pain, particularly chronic pain, more effectively. For instance, one study of roughly 3500 participants found that practicing meditation was associated with decreased complaints of chronic or intermittent pain.
Meditation has also been shown to help decrease chronic pain and increase comfort levels, even for people suffering from terminal diseases or receiving end-of-life care.
Getting Started with Meditation
One of the great advantages of meditation is that you can fit it into your schedule, whatever your lifestyle. This is a great benefit for older adults, who tend to be busier with work, play, and travel than previous generations were at the same age.
You may be able to see some of those healthful effects we discussed above by practicing your chosen style of meditation for as little as five or ten minutes a day.
Even better, meditation is a totally versatile activity, suitable for any lifestyle. You can do it all alone, or join a group. You can practice mindfulness while at work or at home, or even find time to meditate when you’re on the go!
Looking for a starting point? Here are a few resources that may help:
- MeetUp.com offers the opportunity to find meditation gatherings and classes in cities all around the country.
- The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers online classes and free guided meditation experiences, both perfect for beginners.
- There are several different internet services and smartphone apps that offer different meditation courses and experiences for all levels, including Meditation Studio, Headspace, and Sounds True.
- Your local library may have books, videos, and other resources that can help you learn more about meditation.
And now, we’d love to hear from you! Have you seen any benefits from incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your life? Are there any resources that you think other grown-ups need to see? Be sure to share your wisdom over on Facebook!
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