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 stress reduction in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints

Study suggests that Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is feasible and well received among older individuals with cognitive complaints.

Objectives: In a rapidly aging world population, an increasingly large group faces age-related decline in cognitive functioning. Cognitive complaints of older adults are often related to worries and concerns associated with age-related functional decline. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can successfully target stress, worry and ruminative thinking, but the applicability of this method in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints is unclear.

Method: Patients of a university hospital memory clinic (n = 13), aged 45–85 years, with memory complaints but no diagnosis of cognitive disorder, participated in a standard 8-week MBSR program, consisting of weekly group meetings and a one-day silent retreat. After completion, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted. Questionnaires (administered before, one week after and five weeks after the intervention) assessed quality of life, psychological distress (stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms), mindfulness, self-compassion, and subjective memory functioning. Neurocognitive functioning was assessed online, before and after the intervention.

Results: The qualitative analysis showed positive effects of the training (e.g. increased serenity), many participants worrying less about memory complaints. The self-reported measures were in line with the results of the qualitative analysis.

Conclusion: This exploratory mixed-methods study suggests that MBSR is feasible and well received among older individuals with cognitive complaints.

Full reference:  Lotte Berk et al. | Mindfulness-based stress reduction in middle-aged and older adults with memory complaints: a mixed-methods study  | Aging & Mental Health |  Published online: 19 Jul 2017

 

Pet dogs as promoters of wellbeing

The rise in life expectancy requires strategies to enable healthy ageing and the promotion of a high quality of life in old age | British Journal of Community Nursing

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Poor mental health including depression and social isolation can blight older people’s lives. Despite the positive benefits of physical activity for both mental and physical health, only a minority of those over 65 years are attaining the recommended levels of physical activity. The evidence relating to the benefits of pet dogs as promoters of wellbeing is set out in this article, although meeting their care needs may place an additional strain on an older person and/or their carer who has limited resources and physical capabilities.

Full reference: While, A. (2017) Pet dogs as promoters of wellbeing. British Journal of Community Nursing. Vol. 22 (no. 7)

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

Helmes, E. & Ward, B.G. (2017) Aging & Mental Health. 21(3) pp. 272-278.

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Image source: Moyan Brenn – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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.

 

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.

Read the full abstract here

An adapted mindfulness intervention for people with dementia in care homes

Clarke, A.C. et al. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Published online: 7 February 2017

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Objective: Depression and anxiety are common in dementia. There is a need to develop effective psychosocial interventions. This study sought to develop a group-based adapted mindfulness programme for people with mild to moderate dementia in care homes and to determine its feasibility and potential benefits.

Conclusions: The intervention was feasible in terms of recruitment, retention, attrition and acceptability and was associated with significant positive changes in quality of life. A fully powered randomised controlled trial is required.

Read the full abstract here

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