When caring for a senior loved one, suggesting fun, new activities to try together can have major benefits. One such activity that provides substantial physical and mental health benefits is yoga. If you are looking to experience a new activity together and improve the health and quality of life for your senior loved one, here are six reasons why you should encourage senior yoga.
The Physical and Mental Health Benefits
- Pain Relief – Aging brings physical changes, and moving about can become slow and slightly painful. Yoga is a form of gentle stretching, and its accompanying pain relief comes from changes in the brain. Studies show that regular yoga practice increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, and enhances white matter connectivity. What does this mean? Well, it results in higher pain tolerance and a change in pain thresholds. In fact, doctors often suggest yoga as a medication-free way to deal with pain.
- Build Bone Density – Bone density is another area that declines as the years tick by, but recent research suggests that yoga can improve bone density and prevent osteoarthritis. In this study, participants (whose average age was 68) developed higher bone density in the spine and hip bone after practicing certain yoga routines regularly. This in turn could help prevent falls and bone fractures/breaks, as well as improve mobility.
- Improve Memory – Seniors are at an increased risk for developing dementia, and brain games are often suggested as a method of prevention and to slow the progression of dementia. Yoga is a good way to improve memory too. One study found that seniors who practiced yoga in conjunction with meditation had a higher improvement in visual-spatial memory skills compared to those who only performed memory exercises, and both groups had improved verbal memory skills and improved overall cognitive functioning.
- Self-Esteem Boost – Seniors usually experience many forms of loss, including a loss of independence as their mind and body undergo changes. Yoga poses have been found to leave participants feeling empowered, strong, and in control of their body and mind. The accompanying energy boost increases confidence and feelings of satisfaction too. Sure, yoga has some crazy poses, but even the simplest ones put you in control, and that is a welcome feeling.
- Stress Relief – Yoga is often touted as one of the ultimate forms of stress relief, and for good reason. Yoga’s ability to naturally relieve stress comes from the combination of several factors – slow movements, stretching, meditation, breathing, and imagery. Research has shown that when yoga is done regularly, seniors can experience lower blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, stress, and cortisol levels, and an improvement in healthy sleep patterns.
- Social environment – Yoga can be practiced alone, but attending a group class puts you in a positive social environment. For seniors, this provides an opportunity for socialization and to build friendships, helping to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social isolation can increase the likelihood of depression and can have a direct impact on life expectancy, so yoga is an empowering way to get out of the house and build meaningful social connections.
Getting started is as easy as attending a class at a local yoga studio. Classes can be pricey at times, but if your senior loved one has a Medicare Advantage plan they might be in luck. To determine which plans cover yoga classes, use online resources such as this one for directions on how to use the Medicare Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov. Then use a yoga finder to locate a class nearby.
For a change of routine and plentiful health benefits, encourage your senior loved one to try out yoga. It’s an activity the two of you can do together, and it can provide a much-needed break from the typical day-to-day routine. If yoga isn’t of interest, keep suggesting other activities until you find one that sticks. In doing so, you’ll be providing health-boosting activities for your senior and fostering a stronger connection too.