Journal of Behavioral Health and Psychology. 2021; 10(2):(300-340)


The Efficacy and Utilization of an Online Mindfulness Intervention on Lonely Older Adults

Rachel Ungar, Lizi Wu, Stephanie MacLeod, Rifky Tkatch, Laurie Albright, James Schaeffer and Ellen Wicker

Abstract

Background: To support successful aging within a rapidly increasing population of older adults, a holistic approach with accessible interventions has become essential. Research shows mindfulness meditation can reduce negative health outcomes, including loneliness and psychological distress. Common barriers to attending in-person interventions include frequency of sessions, inflexibility of scheduling, lack of transportation, and COVID-19 restrictions. Alternatively, online interventions can be ideal, as they are more accessible and flexible.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test the feasibility of an online mindfulness intervention among lonely and non-lonely older adults and determine if an online mindfulness program could decrease loneliness and improve other psychosocial measures.

Methods: A total of 510 older adults (248 lonely; 262 non-lonely) participated in an eight-week online mindfulness intervention in 2018-2019. Pre- and post-surveys were administered before starting and at the completion of the intervention.

Results: Analytic results conducted in 2020 showed significant differences between lonely and non-lonely individuals who participated in this study. Matched paired t-tests showed significant improvement for lonely participants in purpose, loneliness, and mindfulness awareness. For non- lonely participants, improvement was observed in purpose, mindful awareness, perceived stress, and well-being. Greater impact was shown in measures for those who participated in the intervention.

Conclusions: This online mindfulness-based intervention decreased loneliness and improved other psychosocial measures among older adults. Participants who attended sessions experienced greater improvement than those who did not. However, the ability to improve retention rates in this format remains uncertain. Future research regarding larger scalability of this intervention would be beneficial.

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