iRest for older adults with depression

Wahbeh, H., & Nelson, M. (2018-9). iRest Meditation for Older Adults with Depression Symptoms: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, no. 29, doi: 10.17761/2019-00036. Full text.

Abstract. Older adults, a rapidly growing population in the United States, have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress, making them especially susceptible to depression symptoms. Meditation offers promising potential as an effective treatment; however, few studies have evaluated meditation interventions for this demographic.

The objectives of this pilot study were to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an iRest meditation program in older adults with depression symptoms and to collect preliminary data on its effect on depression and depression-related symptoms compared to a vacation control.

The study occurred at the Institute of Noetic Sciences EarthRise Retreat Center and participants’ homes. Thirty generally healthy older adults, aged 55–90, with depression symptoms were recruited. Participants were randomly assigned to a 2-day retreat of either iRest meditation training or vacation. After the retreat, participants were asked to complete 20 minutes of home practice per day for 6 weeks; this consisted of either guided meditations (iRest) or music (vacation).

Data were collected pre- and post-retreat and then 6 weeks later. Measures included depression-related variables (expectancy, depression symptoms, perceived stress, resilience, pain, sleep quality, and spirituality) and biomarkers (voice stress analysis, heart rate, heart rate variability).

We found the iRest intervention for older adults with depression symptoms to be feasible and acceptable. Preliminary results at 6 weeks demonstrated improvements in sleep impairment in older adults compared to the control group and promising trends in improvements in depression symptoms and pain severity.

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