The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group met at Westminster on 14th May 2019 for a hearing on Mindfulness, Ageing Well and Older People. The event drew together politicians, charity workers, and researchers, with over 20 universities represented in the room, alongside representatives from leading charities working with the older population today. The event followed two strands of enquiry: the role mindfulness can play in improving the quality of older people's lives, and how mindfulness can positively affect the ageing trajectory throughout the entire life course from early adulthood onwards. Our panel was chaired by the MAPPG co-chairs Tim Loughton MP (Conservative) and Chris Ruane MP (Labour). Speakers were: Jenny Edwards, CBE, Health Policy Lead Mindfulness Initiative, Professor Eric Loucks, Brown University, Dr Antoine Lutz, French Medical Research Institute (INSERM), Jennifer Cleary and Jack William Forsey, research participants, Dr Trudi Edginton, City University, and Dr John Darwin, Mindful Ageing, Sheffield.

You can listen to an audio recording of the talks here

Tim Loughton MP opened the meeting, briefly introducing the context for the need for interventions to support the older population in the UK navigate issues such as loneliness, acceptance of ageing, living with long-term health conditions and enhance life-long learning, social connection and wellbeing. The policy context was further expanded upon by Jenny Edwards, CBE, our Health Policy Lead at the Mindfulness Initiative. Jenny outlined the familiar issues often associated with ageing but also stated that it is in our evolutionary interest as a species to live longer and contribute wisdom. She argued for long-term investment in the NHS to deliver more preventable measures, to work more locally to provide care, and integrated social prescribing. Whilst welcoming the growing body of health advice aimed at the older population Jenny noted that it focuses on physical health. She called for a wider recognition that wellbeing involves more than our physical selves, and for a change in the framing of how we look at age.

Dr Eric Loucks, Brown University, focused on ageing throughout the life-course, noting that we begin to immediately after inception. Dr Loucks outlined research into the impacts of mindfulness on conditions that are more prevalent in older age, in particular depression, stress, and cardiovascular disease. His research focuses on an adapted Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to reduce stress and encourage participants to make life changes that will reduce their blood pressure levels. Results are encouraging, with mindfulness practice reducing stress, alleviating depression and increasing both mental and physical wellbeing in participants, some of whom provided very moving testimonies.

You can view slides from Dr Loucks talk here, and watch excerpts from Dr Loucks presentation below. 

Dr Antoine Lutz, INSERM, presented the initial findings from the Silver Sante Study, a large European €7m trial exploring the impact of meditation on cognitive decline and dementia. This trial examines changes in chemical markers, metabolism and size in regions of the brain that are known to predict the onset of dementia, in order to explore if mindfulness practice can change the trajectory of ageing and dementia. It is known that stress, depression and anxiety are increased risk factors for dementia and can trigger its onset. This study examines three capacities: attention control, emotion regulation, and self-awareness. Participants will practice mindfulness for 18 months, and be tested for biological markers of ageing and dementia, and changes in brain structure and function. Initial findings suggest that by training in mindfulness participants are managing stress and possibly downregulating the biomarkers of cellular ageing and cardiovascular risk factors. You can view an overview of the slides from Dr Lutz's talk here and can sign up to a mailing list for updates from the Silver Sante Study here.

Mindfulness research is entirely dependent on the willingness of research participants to give up their time and step into the unknown by taking on a mindfulness practice. Our next speakers were Jennifer Cleary and Jack William Forsey, who have both participated in the UK arm of the Silver Sante Study at University College London. Both Jennifer and Jack spoke movingly about how developing a mindfulness practice has helped them to understand and connect more with others and to appreciate nature and their lives.


Dr Trudi Edginton, City University, spoke on her research on the impact of mindfulness on people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Dr Edginton has designed tailored mindfulness and compassion interventions for people with memory problems. Studying the areas of the brain that are known to be associated with capacities of mindfulness, the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex, Dr Edginton has found mindfulness practice has demonstrable effects on the brain structure and function. Her research participants have shown changes in anxiety, stress, rumination and increased self-compassion. Although cognitive improvement has not been shown, Dr Edginton has found that participants with dementia have also not shown cognitive decline. Participants remarked on enjoying life more, flourishing, and increasing their social interactions. Dr Edginton called for further research into mindfulness in patient populations with dementia. You can view slides from Dr Edginton's talk here.

Dr John Darwin, Mindful Aging, Sheffield, was our final speaker. Dr Darwin presented on the mindfulness program he has run for over a decade in Sheffield with his colleague Mike Pupius. Dr Darwin emphasised the importance of mindful movement in appreciating the beauty of nature, and also attuning balance and preventing falls. He also celebrated the fact that the Mindful Ageing classes are offered free of charge, emphasising the importance of increased accessibility to mindfulness training for all. You can view slides from Dr Darwin's presentation here, and read more about Mindful Ageing Sheffield, here

The meeting closed with questions from the floor and time for attendees to continue conversations.

The Mindfulness Initiative provides the Secretariat for the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group.