While some love the holiday season it can be a time of isolation for others, especially the elderly. During this season memories of past holidays with friends and loved ones that are no longer in their lives can cause loneliness and depression.
We want to find ways to prevent and alleviate loneliness in the elderly all during the year but especially during the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Why do we worry about loneliness in the elderly?
We know that loneliness and depression are risk factors for major diseases and mortality in elderly. As we are able to help the elderly avoid loneliness, we are able to help them continue to take better care of their health. It allows them to improve and increase the quality of their lives.
What is a possible solution to help elderly deal with loneliness?
A new study has found one that may surprise you. Meditation! That’s right, mindfulness meditation may be the solution.
A study completed by J. David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University found that daily meditation and weekly group meditation for eight weeks decreased loneliness as well as inflammation markers in the body.
During the 8-week study the intervention group attended a two-hour Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class each week and were asked to meditate for 30 minutes each day on their own. During MBSR groups they focused on breathing and body awareness and how to mindfully deal with their emotions.
After eight weeks of training the researchers found that the elderly participants had lower levels of loneliness and lower levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals including C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood stream.
These findings are a great start to continue research to reduce risk factors for major diseases in the elderly. The researchers recommend more studies about meditation and loneliness in the elderly.
What we can learn from this study is that meditation can help to reduce mental or emotional symptoms like loneliness, as well as physical symptoms like reducing inflammatory markers that contribute to major illnesses.