July 1, 2018

The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Seniors and Caregivers

by Harry Cline

Yoga and other forms of meditative discipline hold many benefits for senior citizens who’ve reached an age where flexibility, balance and muscle health can be difficult to maintain. Yoga and meditation are increasingly popular forms of self-care among the elderly, their caregivers and at senior facilities across the country. They help older adults feel better mentally and physically by restoring the mind-body connection, which helps you draw on important internal resources in overcoming depression and anxiety. 

Yoga offers seniors a great many health benefits, but it can seem an arcane and intimidating practice requiring a degree of agility that seniors often lack. Stick with it and you’ll gain peace of mind, better mental focus, relaxation and renewed mindfulness.

Flexibility and agility

Inactivity, isolation and the physical residue of aging often make it difficult for seniors to maintain the flexibility and agility they need to stay active. Regular exercise is important for older adults, just as it is in every age range, but lost flexibility can make it very difficult for seniors to maintain mobility and perform common everyday activities like shoe tying. Stretching is a significant part of any yoga program. And over time and with patience, yoga helps reduce muscle and joint pain and builds strength as you learn it and perform it regularly. No need to hit the weights or resistance bands. Yoga builds muscle throughout the body and gradually helps you regain flexibility and agility.

Balance

Loss of balance is a serious problem for many senior citizens. It contributes to millions of falls each year that result in broken bones, emergency room visits and hospital stays for Americans over age 65. Many of the poses that comprise yoga routines, such as the standing pulling bow or the tree, are helpful in restoring balance and building muscle strength.  

Meditation

Yoga and meditation are closely linked. Together, they provide mental focus and an enhanced ability to concentrate on the moment. The improved mindfulness one gains from engaging in meditation is uniquely enriching and self-empowering; it helps improve patience, enhance sleep, aids your ability to deal with day-to-day frustrations in a healthy manner and alleviates depression and its mental and physical consequences. 

Meditation is a contemplative practice that research shows can help shield the brain from the effects of stress and anxiety. For seniors, it offers myriad benefits that can help stave off some of the most common problems that plague senior citizens. It can slow the advance of Alzheimer’s disease and the onset of dementia, a degenerative condition that destroys memory and cognitive functioning. Meditation is also effective at improving mood and a sense of personal well-being, which many seniors who live in isolation and depression sorely lack. It stimulates the brain’s memory centers, thereby improving memory and slowing the loss of memory that plagues so many elderly individuals. Deep, focused breathing, an important component of meditation, heightens blood oxygen levels and improves circulation.  

At-home activities

Seniors can also improve circulation and muscle strength by incorporating technology into their health routines. At-home exercises such as those found on Youtube videos or in fitness apps and Wii games are popular among many seniors today and can do much to improve your overall physical health. 

Seniors benefit from a strengthened mind-body connection in ways that improve quality of life and slow down many of the deleterious physical effects of aging. Yoga and meditation are enjoyable and rejuvenating approaches to a renewed mindfulness and sharpened mental focus. 

Author

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

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