Meditation significantly improves the general psychological well-being of older people. Tailored meditation training could significantly increase the quality of life in old age and also strengthen mindfulness and connection with other people.
A new study involving experts from University College London (UCL) examined the impact of taking part in a meditation program on the wellbeing of older people. The results have been published in the English-language specialist journal “PLoS ONE”.
How does meditation work in old age?
The researchers examined the effects of an 18-month meditation program on psychological well-being in more than 130 French-speaking participants between the ages of 65 and 84. These were compared with the effects of English language lessons and a control group that did not take part in meditation or language training.
The meditation program initially included a nine-month module on mindfulness, the researchers explain. Next, participants were instructed to complete a nine-month module on kindness and compassion.
In addition, there were weekly group sessions lasting two hours and the participants in the intervention group practiced at home for 20 minutes every day. They also completed a one-day yoga retreat, the researchers continued.
Significant improvements can be seen
In the study, meditation training improved overall global well-being scores in older adults based on the dimensions of mindfulness, connection and insight.
According to experts, mindfulness means undisturbed and intimate attention to one’s own thoughts, feelings and the environment. Mindfulness is known to promote a feeling of calm and deep contentment.
Insight, on the other hand, refers to self-knowledge and the understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence perception and how negative thought patterns can be replaced by positive thought patterns. Connectedness includes feelings such as respect, gratitude and belonging, which can support more positive relationships with other people.
Impact difficult to measure
However, using other established methods for measuring psychological quality of life, the researchers were unable to find any advantages of meditation over language lessons. Neither intervention showed any significant influence here.
According to the researchers, this is probably because these methods do not capture the qualities and depth of human well-being that can potentially be influenced with the help of long-term meditation.
As a result, potential benefits for mindfulness, connection and insight are not identified, experts say. The study also shows the limitations of existing methods for measuring well-being.
Better quality of life thanks to meditation
After 18 months, participants who practiced meditation showed significantly improved psychological well-being as well as greater mindfulness, connection and insight, and participants who had lower psychological well-being at the beginning of the study benefited particularly greatly, the researchers report.
“We hope that further research will clarify which people are most likely to benefit from meditation training, as it may provide greater benefits to some specific groups,” adds study author Dr. Natalie Marchant in a press release.
Overall, the study suggests that long-term meditation is a promising non-pharmacological approach to supporting human well-being in old age.
“As the world’s population ages, it is critical to understand how we can support older adults to maintain and deepen their psychological well-being,” adds study author Marco Schlosser. Meditation could potentially help here. (as)