As of July 2015, the number of American citizens who were 65 and older grew to 47.8 million, or 14.9 percent of the total population. Meanwhile, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 34.2 million informal caregivers have provided care to an adult aged 50 or older over the previous 12 months. One reason that there are so many caregivers could be because the cost for senior care is exorbitant; many people can expect to pay $320-$350 per day just to keep their loved ones in a nursing home. Perhaps even more shocking is that the American Geriatrics Society predicts that there will only be one geriatrician per every 4,000 senior citizens within the next 15 years. Suffice it to say, getting older in the United States can present seniors and caregivers alike with lots of harsh realities, and therefore, a lot of stress. While these aren’t foolproof strategies against aging, many people have found that yoga and meditation are beneficial for their bodies and their minds, and help them cope with life’s difficulties in a calming, low-impact way. Here are some tips to get started with these practices.
Yoga has been around for a long time. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit yuj, meaning “to join” or “to yoke together.” Many people interpret this as the union of mind and body. Yoga is divided into eight branches (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyhara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi). Each provides different health benefits, which might include decreased back pain, better balance, and improved stress management. Since elderly people may suffer from osteoarthritis or may have sustained injuries in the past, yoga is an optimal exercise option, because it’s a low- to moderate-intensity workout. Just some of the perks of yoga for senior citizens include reduced anxiety, better respiration, increased flexibility, and lower blood pressure.
One of the basic components of yoga is its tendency to help people focus and feel more centered in their world. That’s essentially meditation. Although it shouldn’t be thought of as an empirically-tested medical prescription, meditation has been shown to help people suffering from a variety of ailments. These might include asthma, depression, headaches, chronic pain, and certain cancers. Meditation can be beneficial for caregivers. If you’re an unpaid caregiver, your workload might entail holding down a full-time job, raising a family, and caring for a loved one who may or may not be separate from your family. That’s a ton of responsibility. That’s why meditation is suggested to caregivers to control pain, help them sleep, lower their cholesterol, and simply let them feel content and at peace while they juggle so many roles.
Seniors & Caregivers
Since there are so many benefits to yoga and meditation, it might not be a bad idea to set up a meditation room in your own home. Some tips on getting this space just right is to declutter it so that it’s airy and open, put it in a place you love going to, and add some indoor greenery like a fig tree potted in a woven basket. Put on your favorite music, light candles or scent diffusers, and hang mirrors or paint the walls a hue that relaxes you. Caregivers and seniors alike could retreat into this space whenever they feel overwhelmed or need to seek out quiet and solace.
Meditation and yoga are excellent features of a healthy lifestyle, but you don’t have to stop there. Sometimes, it’s fun to branch out. Other activities you might do to stay mindful and alert include reading, gardening, and taking walks. Not only will they keep you calm, but they’ll also work you out – in both body and mind – so that whether you’re a senior or a caregiver (or both), you’ll be fit and sharp for years to come.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.