Does meditation actually benefit the brain and improve memory as we age?
There are two main types of meditation. The first is a concentrated form where the practitioner focuses on breathing or on specific thoughts and suppressing other thoughts. The second focuses on breathing or a meditation sound, but allows the mind to wonder.
While I have not tried either form on a regular basis, my attempts at both types have, in those moments made me more relaxed and helped to clear my mind. More specially and objectively, in those moments I was able to reduce my blood pressure and focus better on my work. Further, the act of challenging my mind/brain to stay singularly focused felt particularly good.
Thus, as the scientific community is working to establish the mechanisms behind meditation and to better understand the breadth its benefits and whether or not it improves memory, my suggestion is to give meditation a try. There appears to be no downside to meditation and growing numbers of studies supporting its benefits.
Set aside 10-15 minutes per day and challenge yourself to learn how to meditate. At the very least, the benefits of overcoming a challenge and learning something new have long been accepted as beneficial.
Zanesco, A.P., et al. Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2018.
Creswell, J.D., et al., Brief mindfulness meditation alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2104: 44: 1.