Over the past decade, residents and staff in more than a half dozen Kendal senior living communities have adopted a variety of mindfulness-based practices—including meditation, yoga and tai chi—to reduce stress and enhance well-being.
At Kendal-Crosslands Communities, two staff and 75 KCC residents participated in three rounds of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs offered at the community by the Philadelphia-based Brind Center. The Center’s Integrative Medicine Division conducted research on the effectiveness of mindfulness at reducing stress among residents of Kendal-Crosslands Communities. The results? Residents reported among other benefits improvement with sleep and enlivening each other’s spirit. It also led to the creation of a Quiet Room at the campus.
Urban Zen Program Engages Kendal at Granville Residents
At Kendal at Granville, mindful breathing, gentle touch and essential oils bring comfort and healing to residents and staff. “At first everyone was skeptical,” Director of Nursing Krystal Etters says about the Kendal at Granville’s Urban Zen Program. A woman trained in the gentle healing therapies of yoga, essential oils and Reiki was hired to come to the community a couple times a month. Now she’s a popular visitor at Kendal at Granville and everybody asks when she’s coming back, Krystal says.
Yoga therapy involves gentle movements and breathing exercises that can be done in a bed or chair. Reiki is a Japanese technique of light touch, on or near the body, that helps reduce stress and promote relaxation and healing.
Kendal at Oberlin offers tai chi classes on land and in the water. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi involves a series of slow-paced movements, accompanied by deep breathing. The benefits of tai chi include increased flexibility and balance and decreased stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that tai chi can reduce falls among older adults by up to 45 percent.
Fortune 500 companies like Google, General Mills and Black Rock offer mindfulness training to enhance focus, decision-making and productivity. A course called M-Fit has been taught to Marines in order to strengthen their resilience in combat, and both yoga and meditation are used at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Early research suggests that regular mindfulness practice can help older adults sustain cognitive function and slow memory loss.
Research also indicates that consistent mindfulness practice can create long-lasting changes in the brain. “The best data shows powerful impacts from meditation right from the beginning. The more hours of practice you accumulate, the stronger the benefits,” says Dr. Daniel Goleman, co-author (with Dr. Richard Davidson) of Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.
“It’s gratifying to see how mindfulness practice strengthens Kendal culture as residents and staff grow more resilient in the face of stress. There’s less conflict, more cooperation and kindness toward self and others,” says Laura Peters, Human Resources Development and Learning Manager at Kendal at Ithaca.
Learning simple practices in a supportive group setting, participants reported benefits including improved sleep, lower blood pressure, greater self-control, improved digestion and less pain.
Barclay Friends’ is opening a new Personal Care and Memory Care program with a focus on mindfulness. Staff are training in mindfulness techniques including structured silence and guided medication.
A Zen-Inspired Community
And now, Kendal is partnering with the San Francisco Zen Center to develop a community that leads with mindfulness and meditation. This Zen-inspired community called Enso Village will be located in Healdsburg, California. The ensuing discussion focused on the Zen concept of “contemplative care” and similarities between Quaker and Zen values.