An 18-month meditation program has shown promising results in enhancing the well-being of older adults, according to a study co-led by University College London (UCL) and an international team.
The research, published in PLOS ONE, is the longest randomized meditation training trial to date. It involved more than 130 healthy individuals aged 65 to 84 in Caen, France, as part of the edit-Aging (Silver Santé Study) research group.
This group included institutions like UCL, Inserm, University of Geneva, Université de Caen Normandy, and others.
Meditation Program and Its Impact
Participants engaged in an 18-month meditation program, comprising a nine-month mindfulness module followed by a nine-month module on loving-kindness and compassion.
The program included weekly group sessions, daily home practices, and one retreat day. The study also included groups for English language training and a no-intervention control for comparison.
The key findings revealed that meditation training significantly improved a global score reflecting well-being dimensions such as awareness, connection, and insight.
These elements cover aspects like attentiveness to thoughts and surroundings (awareness), feelings of respect and gratitude (connection), and self-knowledge (insight).
Comparisons with Other Measures
Interestingly, the meditation training didn’t show superior benefits to psychological quality of life when compared to English language training, and neither intervention significantly impacted another measure of psychological well-being.
This suggests that conventional measures may not fully capture the benefits of meditation on human flourishing.
The program’s impact varied among participants. Those who started with lower levels of psychological well-being showed more significant improvements than those with already high levels of well-being.
This finding indicates that meditation may be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing lower psychological well-being.
Implications and Future Directions
Lead author Marco Schlosser and co-authors Dr. Natalie Marchant and Dr. Antoine Lutz emphasize that meditation could be a promising, non-pharmacological approach to support flourishing in later life.
They suggest that further research could refine these programs to make them even more beneficial, especially for specific groups who may benefit most.
This study highlights the potential of meditation training as a holistic approach to enhance the well-being of older adults.
By focusing on awareness, connection, and insight, meditation programs offer a pathway to not just prevent disease but to help older adults thrive.
As the global population ages, such non-pharmacological approaches could play a crucial role in supporting healthy aging.
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The research findings can be found in PLOS ONE.