Graceful Aging: How Seniors Can Benefit from Meditation

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Plenty has been discovered about the real-life benefits of the regular practice of meditation. Scientists, through studies, have found that calming activity is good for both mind and body. Meditation is used as part of treating mental illnesses, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meditation is an ancient practice that dates back to 5,000 BCE. It has ties with ancient China and Egypt, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Around 5 or 6 centuries BCE, the practice spread all over Asia through the Silk Road. It was not until the 20th century when meditation moved away from specific religions and became an activity enjoyed by everyone, including Americans.

Meditation is an easy activity because it does not require any special equipment. Most people who practice meditation follow a digital or in-person teacher guide. However, beyond that, all you need is a quiet room to start.

Blood Pressure Management

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common condition among adults. Experts estimate that nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure, but not everyone knows it. The health problem does not cause symptoms, so many people walk around not knowing that they have it. That is why it has earned the moniker “the silent killer.” Although hypertension does not immediately make you feel sick, it is life-threatening. It can be controlled through medication and major lifestyle changes. If not, it can lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, and vascular dementia.

Previous research has found that meditation can manage disorders that are exacerbated by stress, including high blood pressure. Meditation lessens stress, which in turn lessens the hormonal fluctuations in the body. It also lessens the urge to eat food high in sugar or starch, which cold exacerbate stress symptoms.

In one study, researchers recruited participants treated for hypertension using standard medication. They all underwent training for relaxation response. By the end of the study, about 40 of the 60 participants who did relaxation response training saw their blood pressure go down. As a result, they reduced the dosage of their medication against hypertension.

According to experts, relaxation response increases the natural formation of nitric oxide within the body. The presence of nitric oxide opens up the blood vessel, causing blood pressure to drop to normal levels.

Alleviates Aches and Pains

senior woman stretching

With age comes aches and pains. The bodies of older adults, through time, become less flexible and weaker, causing discomfort in muscles and joints.

However, through meditation, those aches and pains will be reduced. Stress can worsen irritation by causing inflammation. In contrast, practicing meditation relaxes the body and mind and triggers the release of endorphins, a hormone known for pain relief.

A previous study has found that the practice of meditation with yoga was more effective than drugs and surgery in providing relief from chronic back pain.

Slows Cognitive Decline

People, through time, also naturally experience cognitive decline. It is not necessarily a sign of dementia but a natural part of aging. Scientists have found that thinking abilities gradually decline past the age of 30. This negatively impacts memory, reasoning, processing speed, and judgment.

However, meditation can improve cognitive abilities. Researchers from the University of California Davis followed a group of people who attended a meditation course. The attendees were tested before, during, immediately after, and up to 7 years after the course.

They found that all participants continued to practice meditation for an average of an hour every day. The researchers compared the participants with a control group who had not enrolled in the meditation course. Those who meditate have a better ability to manage stress, maintain attention and focus better, and have improved psychological well-being. Even after seven years, these gains were still present, especially among those who practiced meditation most often. They showed a lower age-related cognitive decline than those in the control group.

Meditation is a mental exercise that focuses on improving attention and awareness of the present. It prevents the brain from dwelling on negative thoughts that increase stress, anxiety, depression, and unwanted emotions.

There is also evidence that meditation can improve circulation and digestion as well as decrease loneliness. The benefits of the practice are clear: meditation is good for seniors.

Older adults can start practicing medication even without the approval of their doctor. There are meditation classes aimed at the elderly at local senior centers, residential care homes, hospitals, and private studios. There are also apps that guide the listener as they journey toward better mental health through meditation. Some of the most popular meditation apps include Calm, Headspace, Buddhify, Simple Habit, and Insight Timer.