The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

Posted by The Bristal  |  August 9, 2022

Benefits of Meditation for Seniors and Apps to Help You Get Started

Most people begin meditating as a way to reduce stress or to increase mental clarity. Growing evidence suggests that the benefits of meditation for seniors extend well beyond learning how to relax or improve mental focus. Older adults who meditate regularly may also experience improved memory, reduced stress, better digestion, and more.

Concentrative Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation

While the techniques used vary, there are two main types of meditation – concentrative and mindfulness.

Individuals who practice concentrative meditation focus their attention on a single object (or a word, breath, mantra, etc.) to achieve greater self-awareness.

Mindfulness meditation can be beneficial in addressing specific conditions like depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and more. Individuals practice being fully present – allowing themselves to accept thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.

Senior woman seated on the ground in yoga pose.

Tips for Practicing Meditation

  1. Find a quiet place - Reserve a spot where you’ll be free from distractions.
  2. Set a timer - Establish a length of time for meditating. It doesn’t have to be very long; even setting aside 5-10 minutes is helpful.
  3. Get comfortable - Make sure you are seated in a place and in a position where you won’t experience any discomfort or pain.
  4. Take deep breaths - Focus on expanding your belly when you breathe, paying attention to the movement as you inhale and exhale.
  5. Clear your mind - Do your best to clear your mind of all thoughts and feelings. Instead, concentrate on your breathing. Acknowledge your thoughts without judgment when they start to drift but then re-focus on your breathing.

Senior man meditating seated on office floor.

How Does Meditation Benefit Seniors?

A regular meditation practice can offer older adults numerous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits, including:

  • Improved Memory - Memory loss is a common concern for seniors. Numerous factors influence brain health, including nutrition, exercise, and stress. Challenging mental activities, like solving puzzles or learning a new skill, are also important.

    Research suggests that meditating regularly may enhance attention and memory function – a key benefit of meditation for seniors.

  • Better Digestion - While diet, medication, and age all impact your body’s ability to digest food, stress is also a key factor. Multiple studies suggest a strong association between chronic stress and certain digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and acid reflux. Eating plenty of fiber, keeping hydrated, and regular exercise are usually recommended to improve digestion.

    Emerging research suggests that another benefit of meditation for seniors might be improved digestion. Meditative breathing (think deep and slow) activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for rest, repair, and digestion. Specific meditation practices like progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, and mindfulness, all promote a relaxed state which can also be effective.

  • Sleep Soundly - Whether you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, poor sleep quality is an unfortunate reality for many people. For older adults, poor sleep can be caused by several factors, including medical conditions, pain, or medications.

    While practicing good sleep hygiene and adding certain foods to your diet can be effective ways of improving your sleep quality, studies suggest meditation may benefit seniors struggling to sleep. The same process that aids in digestion – deep breathing that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system – can help prime your body for better sleep too.

  • Reduced Stress, Anxiety, and Depression - The physical, mental, and emotional changes associated with aging can be overwhelming, leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety. Left untreated, chronic stress has been shown to contribute to multiple health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and more. Meditating regularly has been shown to calm the body and the mind – an important benefit of meditation for seniors.

    For those who struggle with anxiety and depression, two forms of mindfulness training have proven particularly useful. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a set course that combines mindfulness exercises and yoga in a group setting. In contrast, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) pairs features of MBSR and traditional cognitive therapy. Data from one study suggests that just one mindfulness meditation session can reduce anxiety.

  • Relieve Arthritis Pain - Mindfulness meditation offers numerous health benefits, including relief from arthritis pain. This type of meditation, especially when practiced daily, is effective in helping individuals cope with chronic pain that those with arthritis often experience. Mindfulness can be used alongside medications, a healthy diet, and physical activity in a treatment plan for someone coping with arthritis. This combined approach has been shown to be effective for some in alleviating pain and improving function.

Senior man and woman seated on exercise mats in yoga poses.

Best Meditation Apps for Beginners

Interested in the benefits meditation can offer seniors but unsure where or how to begin? There are dozens of apps available that can help you get started. Available for both Apple and Android devices, the four apps listed below vary in approach (structured versus free-flowing) – and in price (free versus monthly subscription):

Headspace

Headspace offers a mix of guided meditations, animations, articles, and videos that help you cultivate mindfulness. There is a dedicated section for beginners – additional meditation topics cover stress, anger, growth, sadness, focus, and more. Visit sleep stories if you are struggling to fall or stay asleep, or the focus section when trying to finish a project.

Calm

Similar to Headspace, Calm provides users with a blend of guided meditations, music, and stories. In addition, Calm offers a 30-day beginner’s course and guided meditations on anxiety, depression, stress, self-care, and more. Then, you have the option to take your meditation practice to the next level by attending one of Calm’s Masterclasses, also available through the app.

Insight Timer

In addition to content delivered through its app, Insight Timer offers live and virtual events ranging from yoga classes to musical performances. App users will find more than 200 guided meditations – ranging from stress and anxiety to compassion and patience. Insight also offers streaming and pre-recorded yoga classes, as well as a robust sleep section with guided meditations and music.

Buddhify

Understanding that setting aside time to meditate can be difficult, Buddhify offers guided meditations based on what you are doing or how you are feeling. Sessions range between 4 and 30 minutes and are delivered by their hand-picked teachers. Less structured than most apps, Buddhify gives users complete control over customizing their meditation experience but offers curated programs for beginners.

Related: Apps to Help Make Caregiving Easier

More Fun and Healthy Activity Ideas

From indoor exercises to ideas for connecting from afar, our blog is full of tips for living your best life. Explore all our articles on the blog here.

 

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