When seniors are unable to take care of their daily needs on their own, they reach out to a caregiver to lend a hand. The majority of caregivers are informal – meaning unpaid – and are typically a family member or close friend committed to the senior’s well-being. While rewarding, caregiving is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting for both the caregiver and their charge. Practicing self-care through yoga and meditation can help relieve the stress and anxiety that comes with aging and caregiving, while improving flexibility, balance, and overall strength.
Benefits of Meditation for Seniors and Caregivers
Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind that results in relaxation of both body and mind. Anybody can meditate at any time and anywhere. However, most people find it easier to practice in a designated area, free from distractions. There are different types of meditation,including concentration, metta, and moving meditation. However, for the purpose of seniors and their caregivers, we’re going to focus on the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
- Difficulties caused by aging and caregiving can lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Meditation reduces negative feelings and amplifies positive emotions.
- Meditation keeps the mind sharp, improves memory, and may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Relaxing through meditation reduces stress-induced inflammation that can lead to health issues such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and psoriasis.
Benefits of Yoga for Seniors and Caregivers
Yoga combines the mindfulness and breath control of meditation with specific bodily postures to help increase flexibility and strength. The practice has a 5,000-year history rooted in ancient Indian philosophy and spirituality, but Western practices often focus on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits, without using a religious context. There are countless types of yoga, from the ancient Kundalini to the recent one like hot yoga. Seniors and their caregivers can benefit from all types or even come up with their own sets of poses. In general:
- Yoga improves core strength and flexibility. This enhances balance and reduces the risk of falls.
- The gentle exercise releases feel-good endorphins into the body which facilitate a general sense of well-being.
- Yoga reduces joint swelling and promotes bone strength.
- By improving digestion and the quality of sleep, yoga can help seniors and their caregivers control their weight.
- Yoga is good for the heart as it lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure.
If you’re practicing yoga for the first time, taking a class with an instructor is often a good idea. A yoga instructor can teach you the poses and correct alignment. While the price of taking classes can add up, make sure you consult some resources online to see if your insurance covers the cost. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra coverage for yoga classes.
Having a dedicated space in the home for yoga and meditation makes it easier to incorporate the practices into your daily routine. A meditation room should be free of clutter and located in a part of the home where there is minimal traffic. Generally, the more natural light, the better – but the lighting should reflect your preferences and what you find most relaxing. For yoga, make sure there is enough room for two or three people and their yoga mats. Even if there’s just one person practicing, having the extra room is mentally freeing. Any decorations used should be simple. Stick with earth tones and light, muted colors such as pastels. Adding touches of nature is a good idea. Consider investing in a few houseplants, a small water feature, or a Zen garden. Some people like having a candle or incense burning when they meditate, but if these things are irritating to the eyes or sinuses, they are not necessary.
When seniors can no longer handle their basic needs, they need a caregiver to step in and help. While this is a generous and kind thing to do, it can be taxing on both parties. By adding meditation and yoga into daily routines, seniors and their caregivers can improve their overall physical, mental, and emotional health.