For Some, Key to Health Is Mind Over Medicine

ByABC News
February 26, 2006, 2:57 PM

Feb. 26. 2006 — -- At 81, Carmela Hilbert has chronic heart problems and neuropathy in her feet. Yet, she says, in some ways she's never felt better.

"I think a lot of it has to with attitude," Hilbert explains. "I think a lot of it has to do with learning -- with the fact that you never stop trying something new."

The newest thing she's trying is meditation. She walks in a specially built meditation circle called a labyrinth every day near her Bedford, Mass., home.

"You come out of that with a feeling of relaxation and peace that's very helpful," she says.

It also helps alleviate pain and symptoms from her ailments, she adds.

Like Hilbert, millions of senior citizens are frustrated with conventional medicine. In fact, research shows more than 60 percent of adults have turned to non-conventional therapy like meditation, perhaps because 30 percent believe traditional medicine can't help them.

They're flocking to programs offering spiritual wellness -- like meditation, yoga and tai chi.

Frank Rinato, 73, has been practicing tai chi in Brooklyn for 11 years.

"I've had bursitis, arthritis, the gout, and I don't have any of it now," he says.

Ruth Mitchell, 86, practices with Rinato.

"You know, at one time I felt, 'Well, this is my life and that's it,' " she says. "But I feel alive again."

None of these therapies is new, but in the past five years mainstream medicine has started giving them scientific attention and support. And insurers are starting to cover the new approaches, looking for ways to contain the rising costs of standard medical treatments.