I recently came across an article describing how meditation may provide seniors with both psychological and physical benefits. A study conducted at UCLA found that meditation might reduce feelings of loneliness and the expression of certain genes that cause inflammation.
The study involved 40 people between the ages of 55 and 85, who were assigned to either a control group or a group that practiced what is called mindfulness meditation. This involves training the mind to focus on events taking placing at the present moment instead of past or future events. Participants in the mindfulness meditation group attended weekly two-hour meetings and meditated daily for 30 minutes. After eight weeks, the participants who had been meditating reported feeling significantly less lonely.
The study found that the mindfulness meditation group benefitted physically as well, showing ‘lower levels of an inflammatory marker C-reactive protein and beneficial alterations in a genetic transcription factor (NK-kB), which has been found to be important in heart disease.’
According to Steven W. Cole, the study’s lead scientist, “Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression. If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly.”