Mindfulness For Elderly People: Everything You Need To Know
August 24th, 2022
Mindfulness has been a big buzzword for a few years now, but do you know exactly what it is and how it could benefit you as you get older? You’re never too old to take up mindfulness – for elderly people, it can be incredibly beneficial; it can help you to reconnect with yourself, deal with everyday stresses, and manage your mental health.
The covid-19 pandemic took a toll on many older people’s mental health, with figures published by Age UK in November 2020 showing that 34% of over-60s were feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic.
This was an unprecedented situation, but techniques such as talking therapies and practising mindfulness were recommended by various outlets to help people manage these new feelings and emotions. Mindfulness cannot cure anxiety, but it is a technique that many people use to manage their mental wellbeing, and process their thoughts and feelings.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about practising mindfulness in later life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about focusing on (being mindful of) the present by finding a place in your mind where you can block out disruptive thoughts, feelings, and noise, centre yourself, and really focus on the present moment.
Meditation is a big part of mindfulness, but not necessarily in a religious sense; anyone of any or no faith can practise mindfulness.
Dr Danny Penman, an expert on mindfulness meditation, explained this to Age UK, stating: “Mindfulness was originally a Buddhist practice, developed about 2,000 years ago; all religions practice some form of meditation. It was clearly very common in Christianity until the late Middle Ages. Judaism and Islam as well all practice meditation, but you don’t have to be religious to practice it at all.
“Nowadays, it’s an entirely secular practice. It’s like yoga – it’s like many of these things – they have their roots in religion, but you don’t need to be religious to practise them.”
What Are The Benefits Of Mindfulness?
The mental health and mood benefits of mindfulness can be wide-ranging, but it’s important to bear in mind that mindfulness is not a cure for mental health conditions. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s mental health, speak to your GP who will be able to assess your symptoms and recommend the best type of support for your individual needs.
The benefits of mindfulness can include:
- Helping you to process and manage everyday stresses
- Encouraging you to connect more to the present moment and accept whatever situation you find yourself in
- Helping you to process emotions brought up by grief
- A greater sense of mental clarity
- A chance to practise self-care – it’s important to be kind to yourself
- Improving your tolerance and concentration levels – by finding new ways to process your emotions, you may find that you have more mental capacity to deal with other people and tasks
- Deep, measured, mindful breathing may even help to improve blood circulation or gastrointestinal disruption
- Potential improved sleep
- Practising mindfulness meditation regularly may also lead to a possible reduction in blood pressure levels
Remember, if you’re worried about any physical symptoms that you’re experiencing, you should always speak to your GP.
Mindfulness For Elderly People: How It Can Help
Practising mindfulness for elderly people can be a good way to process your emotions, which may change as you get older, and due to changing circumstances.
For example, it can be difficult to come to terms with changes to your mobility, or the way that you look, and many older people experience grief as their partners and friends pass away. You may also be dealing with a change in your day-to-day life as you move into a care home, which may trigger new emotions.
Mindfulness for elderly people can be a way to process emotions, deal with stress, and perform self-care to benefit your mental wellbeing.
If you’re caring for an elderly person, or a loved one who has dementia or other additional needs, try to find some time for yourself to practise mindfulness. Clearing and calming your mind may help you to deal with the stresses you face day-to-day, and to process your own emotional needs when so much of your time is spent caring for someone else’s.
How To Practise Mindfulness
There’s no one set way to practise mindfulness, but many people meditate to clear their mind and bring themselves to the present moment. Read on to discover more ways to practise mindfulness.
To meditate in a mindful way, begin by finding a quiet spot and getting comfortable. When you think about meditation, you might imagine people sitting cross-legged on the floor, but there’s no need – simply find a comfortable spot in your chair to begin with. Once you’ve mastered mindfulness, you should be able to tap into these techniques wherever you are.
To practise mindful meditation:
- Start by lighting a candle or placing a few drops of aromatherapy oil on a tissue before you begin; when you catch that scent in the future, it should take you right back to that calmer moment
- Once you’re comfortable, breathe in and out slowly, and focus your mind on these deep breaths, really concentrating on that in-and-out rhythm. As you shift your focus to your breathing, you should notice your mind clearing
- Allow any stresses and emotions to come up without judgement; let yourself feel the stress or worry for a moment, and think about why you might be feeling that way. Addressing your emotions one at a time can help you to process them, and may give you more clarity on thoughts that have been bothering you
“It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events,” explains Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
You may choose to meditate for just a few minutes or for half an hour at a time; try to practise your mindfulness a few times a week, or even every day to build the habit.
If you’re not sure about meditating, try practising some gentle yoga instead. Yoga also focuses on your breathing, helping to calm your mind while providing you with physical exercise. If you’re not especially mobile, you may want to try chair yoga instead. Find out more about the benefits of practising yoga in later life.
Tune Into Your Senses
During a meditation session or simply in a quiet moment during your day, practise mindfulness by tapping into your senses. Focus on the present by thinking about three things you can see, hear, feel, touch, and taste – this is a good way to focus on the present moment.
Try doing this when you’re out for a walk to be more mindful in nature, or in your own home when you’re feeling out of sorts.
Journalling For Mindfulness
Some people like to try journalling as a way to practise mindfulness. You might like to simply write down your thoughts whenever you’re feeling stressed to get them out of your head, or you may want to try gratitude journalling. This type of journalling involves writing down three things you’re grateful for at the start or end of every day (or both) to remind you of the little things to be thankful for.
Guided Mindfulness Meditation
If you’re still struggling to know where to start with practising mindfulness, look for guided meditations on YouTube that will prompt you to clear your mind. Alternatively, download the Headspace app, which has lots of advice on mindfulness and meditation to benefit your mental wellbeing.
What You Need To Know About Our Oomph! Wellbeing Programme
At New Care, all of our care home staff have undergone training as part of the Oomph! wellbeing programme, which means they’re equipped to deliver activities to support residents’ mental, emotional, and physical needs.
Across our Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Leeds, and Nottingham care homes, our staff are trained to deliver fun physical activities and everyday mental stimulation for our residents, which could include activities to practise mindfulness.