Learning to meditate might help ease feelings of loneliness among seniors, and the practice may also reduce inflammation in the body and thus decrease risk of serious diseases.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh recruited 40 adults – most of them women – between the ages of 55 and 85 to enroll in an eight-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction. The participants were randomly assigned to a meditation group or a group that didn’t meditate.
Those who learned to meditate attended a weekly two-hour session consisting of mindfulness meditation exercises, yoga, stretching and discussions. They also attended a daylong retreat and were instructed to spend 30 minutes per day meditating at home.
After completing the training, the participants reported less loneliness, and tests showed a significant decline in the expression of inflammation-related genes. Earlier studies have found that loneliness can increase the risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s diease, depression and premature death, but this one was the first to show that meditation could both decrease loneliness and reduce inflammation.