Press release 24th of June 2021
Mindfulness can help older individuals keep their vitality
Can sitting on a cushion and focus on the present moment help us age more healthily? According to a new research study carried out at Leyden Academy of Vitality and Ageing it can.
A group of international young older individuals aged 55-74 participated in an 8- week digital Mindfulness Based Vitality and Ageing (MBVA) pilot course and reported afterwards that mindfulness helps them stay mentally flexible. They consider this an important ability to continue living their lives to the fullest and to prepare for further anticipated age-related challenges to come.
When thinking about an older person that is full of vitality, most people think about someone that is physically mobile and full of energy. But this is a limited view of vitality. According to scientific researcher Frank Schalkwijk at Leyden Academy, successful ageing is not just about stalling our biological aging. It is also about having the mental flexibility to set and achieve goals that are appropriate given the inevitable functional decline in older age and so far, this has been a neglected area in research.
Mindfulness on the other hand, is an area of great interest for both researchers and the general population. It is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment while being aware of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions without judgment. A continuous growing body of evidence has found it to be helpful for coping with various stress related challenges as well as having beneficial effects on health and general wellbeing. Limited research has focused on how mindfulness can help older people. However, the result of the newly finished research study shows a very promising beginning for further research into how mindfulness can help us continue to live thriving lives despite our natural decline.
“Mental flexibility is vital for our vitality” says mindfulness teacher and researcher Berit Lewis. “As we grow older, our bodies and minds are not always working as well as they used to. The challenge is to not focus on all the things we cannot do, but instead meet these changes with open awareness, acceptance, self-compassion and flexibility. The study suggests that mindfulness can help us develop the skills that allows us to better adapt and set new appropriate ambitions”
The study was qualitative and limited to the 6 women that signed up for the pilot course. It does therefore not represent all older individuals and mindfulness might not be useful for nor enjoyed by everybody. Nevertheless, it is an interesting result and an area that deserves further investigation. Elderly people that are full of vitality are more able and motivated to look after themselves. They can continue to contribute to society for longer, which could potentially reduce the pressure of the aging population on society. For the individual person, the benefits are obvious. As Berit Lewis puts it:
“Growing old is natural but decline doesn´t have to stop us from “feeling alive”. The participants in the study showed that the skills which allows us to be mentally flexibility is something we can all learn and get better at through practice”
Berit Lewis intends to continue offering digital MBVA courses. For more information, please contact her on mobile: 0654202862 or email: email@example.com. Or have a look at the options for either day – or evening courses starting in September:
It is also possible to download the research rapport here