There is no question about the importance of being social, especially elderly people who are prone to isolation and thus depression. Physical and mental health can be greatly improved with some good ol’ company or community-based activity. Time with family and friends is incredibly important in an aging senior’s life. However, some solitude can also do wonders for the mind and body. In between social interactions, an older adult with a strong self of self can be alone — but not lonely. It can make a world of a difference, especially for those living in retirement complexes or long term care. Meditation and mindfulness are two activities anyone can enjoy to nurture themselves, regardless of physical ability.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a relaxation technique that develops concentration, clarity, and a healthy sense of perspective. It may include a mantra, silence, closing the eyes, and/or rhythmic breathing. The goal is to focus inwards for mental and physical stillness. With practice, it literally transforms the brain. These practices can be long or short. So don’t be afraid to start small and grow in your meditation practices. It can be anything from taking two minutes to breath to an hour of relaxation. It is simply focusing on reducing stress and promoting healthy living.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment; noticing current thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. It’s almost like meditating at every given moment. Mindfulness helps people connect with the world and the way they understand it emotionally, thereby calming the mind. Rather than avoiding feelings, mindfulness acknowledges and helps one grow through them.
Practicing mindfulness is helpful for both a caregiver and an elderly senior. Being a caregiver to a senior – especially one with dementia – can be taxing to their mental health. Being mindful to frustration and acknowledging these feelings will help to work through them rather than hurt their mental health. For seniors it will help them understand their changing emotions and frustrations. A senior that practices mindfulness may be able to express their emotions and confusion better.
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness for Seniors
There have been many studies on the value of consistent meditation. They have proven that meditation and meditative techniques such as mindfulness have vast physical and mental benefits. Starting at a young age will help in future, so try making it a family event. If you are a senior that wants to begin it can help improve you quality of life quickly.
Here are some benefits an older person may experience with regular meditation and mindfulness practices.
Depression is common in the elderly. Meditation and mindfulness is shown to help people manage negative emotions and amplify positive ones. This means that it will help a senior acknowledge any negative feelings and work through them for better understanding. It will then help a senior take a step back and focus on happier thoughts. Or it can show a senior how to make negative thoughts into happy ones.
Improves Circulation, Blood Pressure, and Digestion:
Deep breathing is a huge component of meditation. This action, when practiced regularly, improves circulation, boosts blood oxygen levels, and improves digestive function. Seniors with digestive issues will find almost immediate relief once meditative breathing becomes part of their daily practice.
The Progression of Alzheimer’s:
A recent study has shown that breathing exercises and meditation combined slows the progression of dementia. As well as focusing on surroundings can help slow memory loss in dementia patients.
The more you practice meditation the more it will cause the brain’s physical structure to change. This means it will change the way the brain functions and help with certain attributes. These attributes include, focus, creativity and cognitive skills. This helps older minds keep their sharpness, which helps prevent aging symptoms like memory loss and dementia.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises and enlarges the parts of the brain responsible for memory. This can help slow memory loss, and help slow Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Meditation forces you to take a moment to breath. During this breathing, you are able to organize thought’s more easily. It can help gain a clear perspective on life and what is going on. This can help in reducing stress from daily life.
The purpose of meditation is for both mental and physical health. Having meditation sessions as a caregiver with an aging senior, or simply for yourself will benefit your every day life. If you are a family caregiver, try going to a meditation center with your aging parent. Make it a family activity by going with brothers, sisters, aunts or kids. Guided meditations can teach you great meditation practices which you can take with you into your daily life. If you notice your senior get stressed, practicing daily meditation can help them as well as yourself. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a two month change. It is important to practice every few days if not every day.
If you don’t think you are into the typical mediation practices, try looking into a different form of meditation. Meditation involves practices that can be a full hour to even two minutes of mindfulness meditation. So find what meditation based practice works best for you and your elderly loved one.