Jessica Tieskoetter, DNP, as part of her doctoral dissertation, wanted to implement a mindfulness meditation phone line for Visit-A-Bit participants through the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA). Visit-A-Bit is a program where volunteers visit with a senior participant once a week, either in person or via telephone.
She wanted to answer the question: in adults aged 65 and older, what is the impact of phone-based mindfulness meditation on feelings of loneliness over three months? To answer that question, she monitored which participants called the line and how often over three months. She also used data from the Visit-A-Bit Screening Assessment Instrument to evaluate feelings of loneliness and quality of life before and after implementing the mindfulness meditation phone line.
Finding inspiration from data
Jessica volunteered with the Visit-A-Bit program, and after interacting with participants for a couple of months, she saw a need for an activity that could be done daily outside of weekly visits with volunteers. When she reviewed the data on loneliness among older adults, she identified the following mindfulness themes:
Loneliness negatively impacts an individual’s physical and mental health, showing that loneliness is a public health concern.
Older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing loneliness, and interventions should be focused on reducing loneliness among older adults.
Mindfulness effectively reduces loneliness. Therefore, mindfulness interventions should be implemented for lonely populations.
Mindfulness provides mental and physical health benefits, so mindfulness interventions could help reduce the health impacts of loneliness.
How does the mindfulness meditation line work?
The mindfulness meditation phone line is free and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the phone number is called, a phone menu greeting is played. Participants can select a three, five or 12-minute guided meditation. Additional phone menu options cover how to prepare for mindfulness and the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
After a meditation is selected, it is best if the telephone is placed on speaker, and participants should find a comfortable position. Ideally, participants will sit in a chair with their arms and legs uncrossed, resting their hands on their lap and keeping their feet flat on the floor. Once the meditation is complete, participants can hang up.
Why is mindfulness meditation important for seniors?
Mindfulness meditation is thought to be ideal for reducing loneliness in older adults because it is a nonpharmacologic intervention (doesn’t require medicine), does not require the internet or a smartphone and can be practiced as an individual activity.
Those last two points are important because many seniors live alone, have mobility issues or don’t have easy access to smartphones or the internet. Jessica wanted to make sure that those barriers did not exclude any seniors from participating in the mindfulness meditation phone line.
Findings regarding mindfulness and loneliness
Of the 22 seniors active in the Visit-A-Bit program, seven chose to participate in phone-based mindfulness meditation. The participants preferred the five-minute meditation. Interestingly, the mindfulness meditation phone line was called most frequently in the morning, despite participants reporting the evening as their loneliest time of day.
Although no statistically significant difference was found in feelings of loneliness among older adults who participated due to the small sample size, the mean loneliness scores decreased over three months, and clinical significance was discovered. The participants who called the mindfulness meditation phone line revealed that the meditations assisted with multiple aspects of their life, including anxiety, stress, focus and sleep. Some also appreciated how the line helped them create the daily habit of deep breathing and mindfulness.
Jessica hopes that this line will continue to be offered and promoted for Visit-A-Bit seniors since the program aims to reduce loneliness and improve the quality of life among older adults. This has already been proven as a result of the mindfulness meditation phone line. To learn more about Visit-A-Bit or find out how you can participate, visit https://visitabit.org/