The Health Benefits of Meditation on Seniors – What the Latest Research Says
What are the health benefits of meditation on seniors?
Meditation is proven to help with many common ailments which affect seniors, such as Alzheimer’s, memory loss, digestion problems, energy levels, brain function, mood, high blood pressure, and pain management.
Many of us are facing a stressful time as we or our loved ones enter their senior years. Although we can hope and pray for these years to be healthy, that is often not the case.
Research into meditation and mindfulness has shown significant signs that if regularly practiced they can have a wide range of physical, mental and emotional health benefits for seniors.
Here are 7 benefits of meditation on seniors
1. Slowing down memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
It is estimated that 50% of people over the age of 85 have some form of dementia, however, Doctor’s agree that this is not a normal part of the aging process. Medical studies show that meditation can have positive effects on attention, memory, executive function, processing speed, and general cognition.
Similarly, studies have shown a link between stress and Alzheimer’s disease. Meditation and mindfulness are an excellent way to reduce stress. Starting meditation while entering, or before, our older adult years is a great way to stay sharp mentally, reduce stress, and help prepare ourselves for the Golden Years of life.
2. Overall improvement of digestive function
Aging can bring on a whole host of new digestive problems which were not present in our earlier years. A Harvard study showed that relaxations techniques, like meditation, had significant effects on digestion including bringing relief to those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is often linked to stress.
For centuries practitioners of meditations have spoken of the positive influence it can have on not only the mind but the body. In today’s western world, many of us want to see some hard evidence before we commit to anything health related. Studies like these show the mind-body link that is formed during meditation can have profound effects on stress levels, digestion, and even illnesses like IBS.
3. Improvement of brain function and energy levels
One major hurdle seniors face is a decrease in brain function and energy levels. One study from the University of Waterloo found that mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga were both effective for improving energy levels and brain function.
“The study found that practicing just 25 minutes of Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation per day can boost the brain’s executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions.” according to Science Daily.
As we age, the slowing down of the mind and body can often lead to inactivity, which only exacerbates the problem. Studies like these show that with only 15-25 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day the mind and body can work together to combat these issues. Ideally implementing meditation into your daily routine can lead to a better quality of life in your later years.
4. Regulating moods and emotions
Managing our moods can be hard at any age, but it becomes increasingly harder as we get older. As we grow older the brain’s physiology changes and this may impact mood stability, making it harder to control our emotional reactions. Similarly, the onset of dementia can lead to emotional outbursts, which are uncharacteristic of the person in their earlier years.
A study by Harvard University showed the benefits meditation can have on regulating emotions.
“Although the practice of meditation is thousands of years old, research on its health benefits is relatively new but promising. A research review published in JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2014 found meditation helpful for relieving anxiety, pain, and depression. For depression, meditation was about as effective as an antidepressant,” according to Harvard University.
“Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. Yet meditating has a spiritual purpose, too. ‘True, it will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self,’ says Burke Lennihan, a registered nurse who teaches meditation at the Harvard University Center for Wellness.”
5. Improvement of memory
Memory loss is one of the most common and most undesired side effects of aging. Meditation has shown positive results in fighting memory loss and improving short-term memory retention in people of all ages, including seniors.
A recent study at the University of West Virginia showed that meditation or listening to music may have multiple benefits on adults facing issues with memory loss.
At Eastern Science, we understand the benefits of both music and meditation, which is why we have devoted so much of our time to create music for meditation.
Try our 15 minute guided relaxation meditation.
6. Lowering of high blood pressure
Most of us do not need to read a study to know that meditation can help to promote relaxation and calmness. Even the act of setting aside 15 minutes (or more) a day to focus on your mental and physical health is a great start on a journey of healing and relaxation.
“Results of a 2009 NCCIH-funded trial involving 298 university students suggest that practicing Transcendental Meditation may lower the blood pressure of people at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.” according to according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
High blood pressure is a serious issue amongst seniors and can lead to a whole host of other serious illnesses like stroke and dementia. Coping with many of the issues associated with ones senior years can often lead to a further increase likelihood of developing high blood pressure. Meditation can help us cope with the onset of aging, as well as the pressures that come with it.
7. Pain Management
Meditation also shows it can have positive effects on pain management. As we age the likelihood of living with pain increases. We develop new issues with our bodies that can be painful and we also sometimes deal with injuries, form falls or strains which we would not have had to deal with in our earlier years.
“A small 2016 study funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that mindfulness meditation does help to control pain.” according to another study by the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
How to meditate?
Many of you may be thinking “ok this all sounds great, but how do I begin?”
Those who are completely new to meditation would definitely benefit from finding like-minded practitioners or a teacher in your area. There are many different forms of meditation, we do not want to recommend any specific one, but rather recommend you try a few and choose one that best suits you. We compiled a list of our Top 5 Tips for people new to meditation.
Our minds often procrastinate by looking for the perfect answer. For example: if someone wants to start exercising they may spend more time researching the best types of exercise when what they really need to do is start exercising, walk out the front door and go for a walk. The point being it’s better to start today then research the perfect form of meditation for you. Our youtube channel has meditation music and guided meditations to help beginners start their journey without too much outside guidance.
Disclaimer: Please remember that this is not medical advice and that meditation is not a replacement for medical treatment. We are not doctors. We are passionate about meditation and hope that seniors can find some relief from their ailments, however, we also strongly recommend that you consult a doctor if you feel you have one or more of the above conditions.