Improving mental fitness with meditation as you age


In this article:

  • A recent study indicates improving your spiritual fitness with meditation can improve your mental fitness.

  • Providence caregiver Mary Ann Dunlap shares her meditation strategies to improve energy, memory retention, concentration and attention span.

  • Some forms of meditation may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Does improving your spiritual fitness also enhance your mental fitness? Recent research suggests it just might. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that a particular meditation practice done 15 minutes each day reduced multiple risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Some predictions indicate more than 150 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s disease by 2050. To date, there is no treatment to prevent or reverse the damage the disease causes to your health and mental functions. Enter Kirtan Kriya — a simple meditative practice that offers multiple benefits for your physical, mental and spiritual health.

Kirtan Kriya meditation

Kirtan Kriya meditation combines focused breathing, singing or chanting, whispering, finger movements and visualization. When done correctly, it activates your senses, awakens your brain and gives you an energy boost.

In the study referenced above, adults age 55 and older practiced Kirtan Kriya meditation for 15 minutes a day for 12 weeks.

Participants experienced:

  • Better memory retention
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Higher brain function
  • Improved energy levels
  • Better psychological health and spiritual well-being
  • Increased attention span, focus and concentration
  • Reduced stress

The study’s results are not surprising to healthcare professionals who regularly take advantage of the healing properties of meditation.

"I like to recommend mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation and gratitude journaling for those who have anxiety, depression, stress or are generally feeling lonely or blah,'" says Mary Ann Dunlap, Nurse Practitioner at Sisters of Providence Health System. “There is evidence that calming the mind through meditative practices can help with focus, concentration and learning.”

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation has long been used to foster calmness, increase relaxation and enhance overall health and well-being. There are many types of meditation. Most have four components in common:

  • A quiet location with few distractions
  • Comfortable position, whether sitting, lying down or walking
  • Focused attention using a word, phrase, object or breath for assistance
  • Open, accepting attitude

What works for you may be different than what gets results for someone else. Dunlap finds meditation an effective tool for improving her patients’ and her own well-being.

"I have a couple of strategies for keeping centered and balanced during the day," Dunlap says. "I like to start my day with 10 to 15 minutes of intention setting, loving-kindness or gratitude meditation. This helps me to focus my day appropriately at the beginning. When I do this, I find I am able to focus my energy on my patients and the work I need to do without it causing as much physical or psychological discomfort.”

Safe and effective for almost everyone

Meditation is usually considered a safe activity for healthy people of any age. In rare cases, it may cause or worsen mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you have existing mental health challenges before starting a meditative practice.

For most seniors, meditation is an effective way to improve brain function while reducing stress and anxiety.

"When I meditate, I feel more in touch with my internal wants and needs versus the external pressures we often focus on when making life decisions," says Dunlap. "I learn more about myself and feel I am kinder and more thoughtful to myself and others."


Find a doctor

Forgetfulness, memory loss and confused thinking do not have to be a regular part of growing older. Geriatric specialists at Providence can help you navigate challenges in your senior years. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can access a full range of health care services. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructio

About the Author

From how to identify and treat heart diseases to exercise tips to maintain an active lifestyle, the Providence Senior's Health team is committed to providing real-world advice that is hyper-relevant to helping those 65+ find ways stay young at heart

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