Mindfulness Training for People with Cognitive Impairment

Todd Tran stands amongst the team who tested the Program

Award Date: 2017

Project Lead(s): Todd Tran, Occupational Therapist

Project Title: 12-Weeks Cognitive Fitness Training Curriculum

What is the issue?

Older adults who think they are experiencing cognitive decline or who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment may have difficulties performing daily activities. As a result, they may also experience anxiety, low mood, and perceived stress, which may contribute to further cognitive decline. There is no evidence that medications can address these issues.

What did we do?

We developed the Mindful Aging Program for people living with cognitive impairment. It is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s proven Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Twelve people tested our eight-week program. Each of the three-hour weekly sessions included instruction on how sleep, diet, and exercise affect brain health, as well as memory strategies, and mindfulness practices. Participants also took part in a longer retreat day to deepen their mindfulness practices. We evaluated whether the program helped participants at the end of 12 weeks.

What did we find?

Study volunteers experienced a slight increase in attention and awareness, mood, and a mild reduction in anxiety. There was no significant change in their cognitive ability. They liked learning how sleep, diet, and exercise affect brain health, and the strategies for improving memory. Participants said that the 9:30 a.m. start time was too early and that they would prefer a larger space for the lying-down meditation practices.