This new and popular mental exercise technique offers an array of health benefits to older people
As Manitoba’s Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, I am always looking for new opportunities that could help older adults improve their quality of life.
Something that is receiving a lot of attention lately and is being researched extensively is mindfulness. It has gained popularity in recent years for its many physical, psychological and social benefits, particularly for seniors.
Tune in to the moment
In the simplest sense, mindfulness means being present in your life. It is tuning in to what you are sensing moment by moment rather than thinking ahead or looking behind. This seems like a simple task, but for us multi-tasking, 21st-century, technological dependents, it may be difficult to wrap our heads around the idea of concentrating on one thing at a time.
For instance, have you ever taken a walk and, five minutes into it, you realize you don’t remember noticing anything along the path you’ve just taken? That’s because we’re often thinking about so many things, we forget to simply “be in the moment” – enjoy the smell of the flowers and the feel of the breeze.
So how can we be more present in our lives?
We can do it by learning and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to benefit seniors in many ways. It:
- boosts the immune system and slow the progress of disease.
- reduces stress and depression.
- builds self-esteem.
- improves cognitive abilities.
- improves sleep.
- slows down the aging process.
- replaces negative thoughts with a more positive outlook on life.
Some mindfulness training for seniors includes physical movements and mental exercises, such as:
- Deep breathing. Keeps respiratory systems strong and lungs elastic.
- Meditation. Brings inner calm and can be done sitting in a chair, standing or walking.
- Gentle, repetitive movement. Promotes optimal health and encourages flexibility.
Meditating with others may help you to learn mindfulness, and being mindful doesn’t need to cost a penny. Some seniors’ organizations offer meditation classes, and a number of community groups in Manitoba offer meditation at no charge. For more information, contact Creative Retirement Manitoba at 204-949-2565 or visit their website at www.crm.mb.ca.
Access from home
You don’t even need to leave home to participate! A & O: Support Services for Older Adults offers meditation classes through its senior centre without walls program. This program provides an opportunity for isolated older adults to access interactive, educational programs from their homes through a toll-free number. Call 204-956-6440 for times and program descriptions.
As always, I invite you to contact the seniors information line if you have questions or need more information about mindfulness, or any topic that interests or concerns you. Call 204-945-6565 in Winnipeg; toll free 1-800-665-6565.
Hon. Deanne Crothers is Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors.