Residents use weekly sessions to reduce stress
Inhale the inspiration, exhale the stagnation. Inhale the relaxation and exhale the tension. Guided meditation at Casa de Mañana is all about creating mindfulness.
"I give each meditation session a theme but I don't have a script," said Veronicah Cohen, Casa's director of life enrichment. "I try to be spontaneous with my words with the goal of taking residents to a peaceful place in their minds to rest, recuperate and to be grounded and clear."
Veronicah, who has a bachelor's degree in human development sciences from UCSD, started the meditation group three and half years ago while working at Casa as a life enrichment intern.
Each session begins with what Veronicah calls a "check in" - each participant sharing particular stresses or issues they are experiencing. "It's a way for the group to empathize with the daily stresses we all go through," Veronicah said.
Veronicah then instructs participants to inhale deeply, and then exhale. The simple mindfulness exercise allows the small group, that numbers between six and 12 per session, to pay attention in a moment without judgment and take their minds off any stressful situations they may be facing.
"Close your eyes," Veronicah tells the group. "Now breathe in through your nose, feeling the breath go from your shoulders to your rib cage and into your belly, then exhale out through your mouth. If your mind starts to wander, and it will, simply let those thoughts float away and go back to the breathing."
These simple instructions help break the autopilot stress cycle. Relaxing the body loosens the muscles, making it easier to focus on the situation. Becoming open to what matters in the moment allows for focusing on the task at hand. "People tend to internalize stress," Veronicah said. "Meditation helps us let go of what we can't control and the powerlessness we may feel and instead, helps us reclaim some of our power and focus on the things in our life we can control."
Mindful meditation has many potential physical and psychological benefits for older adults, including better focus,enhanced calmness, less stress and improved sleep. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can reduce depression and pain, and boost emotional well-being. It can even help adults come to terms with the challenges of aging enhanced calmness, less stress and improved sleep. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can reduce depression and pain, and boost emotional well-being. It can even help adults come to terms with the challenges of aging.
"I've been meditating off and on for years," said resident Sue McLeod.
"When I moved to Casa, I was pleased I had this opportunity. The classes are on Mondays so it's a great way to start the week."
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Veronicah video recorded meditation sessions for Casa's life enrichment You Tube channel so that residents could watch any time.
"We definitely got an uptick in participation during the pandemic," Veronicah said. "Creating a video version was a good alternative when we could not meet in person, but one of the benefits of attending this class together is the camaraderie it builds. We all find a common bond and become close."