Senior Care: Meditation Reduces Feelings of Loneliness in Seniors
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect - August 15, 2013
Preventive Care in Elderly
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been proven to improve the mental and physical health of the aging community. Many elderly people spend their last years alone, so it is important to identify coping mechanisms for feelings of loneliness. Researchers at UCLA have identified meditation as one of these strategies to cope.
Researchers at UCLA found that the meditation reduced the expression of inflammatory genes, most notably the genes connected to loneliness. Loneliness is associated with an increase in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can promote a variety of diseases. The research indicated that a simple meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults.
In the study, 40 adults between the ages of 55 and 85 were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness meditation group or a control group that did not meditate. The meditators attended weekly two-hour meetings where they learned the techniques of mindfulness, including awareness and breathing techniques. They also practiced mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a single daylong retreat.
All the participants were assessed at the beginning and the end of the study using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples were collected at the beginning and end to measure gene expression and levels of inflammation. The participants who meditated reported a reduced sense of loneliness. Their blood tests showed a significant decrease in the expression of inflammation-related genes.
Results Were Very Encouraging
Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA said that although the sample was small, the results were very encouraging. “It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga,” he stated.
Last month, Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor of psychiatry published a study showing that a form of yogic meditation involving chanting reduced the inflammatory gene expression connected to loneliness and decreased stress levels.
Meditation Enriches Daily Life
Meditation may appeal to the aging community because it is easy to learn and quickly enriches daily life. During meditation, the brain is stimulated in a way that increases happiness and satisfaction. Seniors who suffer from depression can benefit from meditation. Overall, the mental and physical health of an elderly person drastically improves from meditation.
The last years of your loved one’s life do not have to feel lonely. Because loneliness is a form of stress that has been link to a higher risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and early death, it is important for the aging community to address mental health concerns. Taking steps to improve mental stability should always be a priority.
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