Learning and Teaching During COVID-19

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Connecting through Phone-Based Meditation

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated problems of social isolation and loneliness in older people. Strong evidence supports that social isolation and loneliness are serious public health risks. 1 Hence, there is an urgency to develop effective, safe, and scalable interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness of older adults. We propose to test the feasibility and efficacy of a telephone-based meditation program that aims to reduce loneliness, increase social contact, and develop mutual support among low- income homebound older adults. The program involves six weekly group sessions of instructor- led meditation and daily home meditation practice guided by recordings, all delivered through conference calls. We will randomize 20 eligible homebound elders to an experimental and a waitlist control group, and test the following hypotheses: (1) Compared to control group participants, experimental group participants will have: (a) more reduction in loneliness, and (b) more increase in social contact. (2) Study participants will have informal contact with and perceive a supportive relationship with other group members after the meditation program ends. We will examine feasibility in terms of (a) sample recruitment and retention, (b) participants’ engagement in training sessions and home practice, (c) compliance and acceptability of the treatment, and (d) participants’ subjective experience of the meditation program. This phone-based meditation program is accessible (telephone), safe (social distancing), scalable (can be easily adapted as a program of a senior center or a health clinic, for example), and relatively inexpensive. Further, the approach is based on research supporting beneficial effects of meditation.

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