Many of my meditation students are surprised by the benefits of meditation for senior citizens. Indeed, meditation can make a huge impact in the life of the over 65s. And just because you’re not a spring chicken, doesn’t mean you can’t be good at meditation.
Meditation can help us to age gracefully. Perhaps this is why the number of adults meditating has tripled since 2012.
I’m often impressed by how good my elderly students are at meditating. They have learned to slow down their minds and to enjoy the moment. And they already have relatively high degrees of mindfulness even before they start meditating.
Meditation just makes everything better. Exercises like mindful breathing, Vipassana, and Body Scan can help reduce stress, improve cognitive functioning, and ultimately, help seniors to live happier lives.
Let’s look at how to meditate as a senior and the benefits of meditation for seniors.
How To Meditate [For Senior Citizens]
- Sit comfortably on a meditation chair or lie down. You do not need to sit crossed legged. Indeed, this can cause more harm than good. For instance, it can damage the knees. Try a variety of different meditation positions and find the most comfortable one for you.
- Use simple meditations, but not guided meditation. Most online websites will tell you to use guided meditation. Why? Because they happen to have a guided meditation app they want you to install. But research from Harvard Medical School  shows that guided meditation is not as effective as traditional meditation. Instead, try a method like mindful breathing, reciting a simple mantra, or Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan meditation.
- If you struggle to focus for extended periods, reduce your meditation time. Aim for five to ten minutes.
- If your mind wanders or you experience “Monkey Mind’, use a mantra. For example, “Om”. Mantras help return the mind to the present moment.
- If you would like to get some gentle exercise at the same time, try tai chi, Yin yoga, or qigong. These also help older adults to maintain balance and flexibility. Many older meditators also enjoy Zen Walking meditation.
- Listen to a meditation podcast. For instance, The Daily Meditation Podcast, which you can find here.
- One of the best ways for seniors to meditate is with a community meditation course. These help to create both social connection and inner peace.
What are the benefits of meditation for senior citizens?
There are many benefits of meditation for senior citizens. Boomers who are dealing with the stress of the Empty nest, chronic pain, losing friends and family, and other issues can find help in meditation.
Research shows that meditation improves long-term and short-term memory, improves brain power, develops focus and concentration, and can help to improve quality of life for seniors.
There are also physical health benefits of meditation for seniors. For instance, it reduces inflammation, improves blood pressure, relieves body tension, and strengthens the immune system.
Let’s not forget about the emotional benefits of meditation for seniors.
Elder meditators find it helps improve wellbeing, reduces the impact of loneliness, and creates positive emotions. Meditating with your family or with your community enhances these benefits.
Of course, there are some limits to meditation. For instance, it won’t magically stop all your muscle aches. However, it will definitely improve quality of life.
Oprah Winfrey, herself a senior meditator, advises us to learn something valuable every year. “Meditation might just be this year’s “something valuable,” whether you’re a spring chicken or a wise old owl,” she says.
According to research by Gaëlle Desbordes at Boston University, meditation improves memory power. This is based on research into mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation.
Meditation increases blood flow to the brain and strengthens the cerebral cortex. In turn, this enhances memory.
Plus, research in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Journal shows that meditation improves cognitive functioning, including memory and attention.
As we all know, memory loss is one of the main side-effects of ageing, so this is a wonderful benefit of meditation for seniors.
When we think about meditation we often think of inner peace. And indeed, research shows that meditation does help with inner peace and relaxation. Simply setting aside some dedicated time to focus on the present moment helps us to feel peaceful.
Indeed, AARP states that meditating for just a few moments can help reduce stress in the elderly. Journalist Bill Stump states that thanks to meditation he is now more in control of his emotions.
Helps with Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Dementia seriously reduces the quality of life in the elderly. It impairs cognitive function, makes it hard to remember and to focus, and can affect emotions.
While dementia is common, the National Institute on Aging says that “Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.”
Meditation can help.
Dr Kin Innes at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown conducted research on meditation and dementia. Her studies show that Kriya Kirtan meditation reduces the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is a type of mediation where we meditate on the mantra “Sa Ta Na Ma”.
Moods & Emotions
As we age, physiological changes can lead to problems with mood stability and emotional processing. With the loneliness many elderly citizens experience, it can be challenging to keep a handle on emotions. But meditation can help.
Research by UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman reveals that Vipassana meditation helps improve emotional processing.
Vipassana is a meditation technique in which we label our emotions. This strengthens the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain. In turn, it helps us control our emotions.
A wonderful benefit of meditation for seniors is that it sharpens the mind. Daily meditation can strengthen various areas of the brain. For instance, it reduces the activity of the amygdala. In turn, this reduces stress, worry, and anxiety. And it strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which helps with planning.
Overall, seniors who meditate experience better mood and better cognitive functioning.
Meditative breathing increases oxygen levels in the blood and helps to improve digestion. This can help with digestive ailments in the elderly. Particularly beneficial is Mindful Eating. This is a technique in which we eat slowly and mindfully, meditating on our food.
There are many wonderful benefits of meditation for seniors. And in my experience, many seniors are excellent at meditating.
By meditating you will find inner peace and happiness. Plus, you will strengthen your brain and body.
If you would like to get the best out of meditation, book an online lesson with me today.