Can mindfulness-based interventions influence cognitive functioning in older adults?

An increased need exists to examine factors that protect against age-related cognitive decline. There is preliminary evidence that meditation can improve cognitive function | Aging & Mental Health 

However, most studies are cross-sectional and examine a wide variety of meditation techniques. This review focuses on the standard eight-week mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

We conclude that eight-week MBI for older adults are feasible, but results on cognitive improvement are inconclusive due a limited number of studies, small sample sizes, and a high risk of bias. Rather than a narrow focus on cognitive training per se, future research may productively shift to investigate MBI as a tool to alleviate suffering in older adults, and to prevent cognitive problems in later life already in younger target populations.

Full reference: Berk, L. et al. (2017) Can mindfulness-based interventions influence cognitive functioning in older adults? A review and considerations for future research. Aging & Mental Health. Vol. 21 (Issue 11) pp. 1113-1120

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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for anxiety symptoms in older adults in residential care

Edward Helmes and Bradley G. Ward. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for anxiety symptoms in older adults in residential care  Aging & Mental Health Vol. 21 , Iss. 3,2017

Objectives: Anxiety in older people is under-diagnosed and poorly treated despite significant impairments that arise from anxiety. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be a promising treatment for anxiety. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of an MBCT program on anxiety symptoms in older people living in residential care.

Method: Fifty-two participants (34 females) were randomly allocated into therapy and control groups using a 2 × 3 mixed design. The average age of participants was 83 years.

Results: The group effect showed significant improvements on all measures at the end of the seven-week program in the therapy group, while the control group did not show significant changes.

Conclusion: This study represents one of the first studies of the effectiveness of an MBCT program on anxiety symptoms for older people using a randomized controlled trial. The study has implications for future research that include the effectiveness of MBCT for the treatment of anxiety symptoms in older people, the utility of group therapy programs in residential care and the benefits of using specialized instruments for older populations.

Mindful aging: The effects of regular brief mindfulness practice in older adults

Malinowski, P. et al. (2017) Mindfulness. 8(1) pp. 78-94

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There is growing interest in the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation practices in terms of counteracting some of the cognitive effects associated with aging. Pursuing this question, the aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of mindfulness training on executive control and emotion regulation in older adults, by means of studying behavioral and electrophysiological changes.

Overall, the results indicate that engaging in mindfulness meditation training improves the maintenance of goal-directed visuospatial attention and may be a useful strategy for counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging.

Read the article here