Expert advice on how to stay calm, healthy, and active in retirement.
If you grew up in the 1970s, hearing the words “New Age” might conjure images of people decked out in bell-bottom flares, or faded Levis 501 jeans worn away at the knees, asking “What’s your sign?”
Many seniors were young adults in the 70s and remember when yoga was a strange new workout that seemed incredibly exotic! At the time, the movement that explored alternative approaches to traditional Western culture-with an interest in spirituality, holism, and environmentalism-was still on the fringes of popularity.
Fast forward fifty years and New Age spirituality has gone mainstream! There are yoga studios in every neighbourhood; mindfulness is an accepted therapeutic practice; apps like Calm and Smiling Mind are common.
Once a rare sight, the slow fluid movements of T’ai Chi (pronounced tie-jee) is gaining popularity. Rooted in Chinese medicine and the Taoist philosophy of harmonious living, this ancient form of moving meditation aims to calm the restless spirit.
While some seniors have been training the mind and aligning body and spirit since the 70s, many are just discovering these practices now.
Meditation: Positive Traits & Blissful States
Meditation usually involves an individual focusing their mind on a certain thought, object, or activity to train awareness. Whether this is done for 5 minutes or an hour a day, meditation has many benefits. You can read about them all here.
A few examples of meditative techniques and their origins are:
- Zen meditation (Buddhism)
- Mindfulness meditation (Buddhism)
- Mantra meditation (Hinduism)
- Yoga meditations (Hinduism)
- Taoist meditations (China)
- Contemplative prayer (Christianity)
No matter the origin of meditation, the common thread is the act of designating an object of meditation (typically the breath) and returning to focus on it when the mind wanders.
Blissful States – Over a lifetime of work, marriage, parenting, and adventure, the mind picks up a lot of habits. This can lead to a full mind that often goes a mile a minute. Practicing meditation slows and quiets your thoughts and helps you enjoy the present moment in your day-to-day life. Even without the additional benefits, this sense of peace is worth the effort!
Positive Traits – Oftentimes, mindfulness meditation is supplemented with compassion or “Metta” meditation that develops a sense of loving-kindness for yourself and others. All Seniors Care’s core culture is based in compassion, connection, and kindness, and we love this idea! Training the mind helps to develop patience and sharper focus when listening to others, and Metta meditation helps you see things from many different perspectives.
Top Three Health Benefits of Meditation for Seniors
- Slowing and softening the onset of Alzheimer’s & Dementia – Studies increasingly show that meditation slows the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Coupled with breathing exercises, it can help reduce the anxiety and depression that often accompanies the onset of dementia, making the disease more manageable.
- Digestion – Believe it or not, meditation actually helps with digestion! The deep breathing involved helps with circulation and heightens the amount of oxygen in the blood, leading to better digestion. This means you’ll be able to enjoy the healthy, delicious meals carefully crafted by our Red Seal chefs in comfort!
- Stress Reduction – Meditating is shown to shrink the amygdala region (the “fight or flight” center) of the brain, which is responsible for stress, anxiety and negative thinking. At the same time, it strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which is good for personal development, creativity, and planning.
At the same time, it strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which is good for personal development, creativity, and planning.
T’ai Chi: A Low Impact Workout to Improve Balance & Energy
T’ai chi uses a series of slow, flowing motions and deep, slow breathing to exercise the body and calm the mind. You move from one pose to another gradually, shifting your weight and extending your limbs to challenge your balance. It looks like a graceful dance.
If you are a bit restless by nature, this moving meditation may be the key to triggering your relaxation response while allowing the energy flow in your body.
- Strength/ Balance – While T’ai Chi is not an intense workout, it develops balance and strength through slow, deliberate movements. These exercises can strengthen your stabilizer muscles and give you an opportunity to improve your balance to guard against falls.
- Cognitive Function – Because the movements in T’ai Chi are subtle, slow and correlated to the breath, they require consistent attention or soft focus as it is sometimes called. The development of sustained focus will improve your overall cognitive functions.
- Arthritis Prevention/ Management – A low impact exercise that mobilizes the joints and increases range of motion, T’ai Chi can help to reduce arthritis pain. The gentle movements mean that there is little likelihood of injury. Just listen to your body!
Exercising Outdoors –At All Seniors Care, we love greenspace and gardens! As a result, seniors living in one of our communities get plenty of fresh air and exercise outdoors when weather allows. A mid-morning T’ai Chi session on a sunny spring day is relaxing and invigorating all at once if you want to combine movement with your mindfulness practice!
Are you looking for inner peace amidst coronavirus anxiety? It might be time to consider meditation or T’ai Chi.
At All Seniors Care, where we place a high value on health, happiness, and overall wellbeing, we recognize the many benefits of these ancient traditions and provide as many resources as possible for our residents to practice them regularly. Whether you’re interested in a senior’s residence in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan or Quebec, you can be sure that there’s plenty of green space for T’ai Chi and a serene atmosphere for peaceful meditation.
If you have any additional questions about our exercise facilities and classes, give us a call at your convenience and we’ll be happy to chat. We also encourage you to check out our Instagram page for awesome pics and more health tips for seniors!