Reporter: “So what’s the best thing about being 100?”
Old Lady: “No peer pressure.” --Sylvia Shiner
You might believe that there’s nothing funny about getting old. That’s not to say that being older means you have to stop being funny. In fact, laughter in senior care is one of the hottest trends in senior living. Regardless of your age, laughter is good for your body, mind, and soul. For seniors, it can add years to their lives without medicines, supplements, or therapies.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Have you ever experienced a period of sadness and then something came out of nowhere and tickled your funny bone so that you laughed out loud? Surely, your mood improved and you felt noticeably better. Are you aware that laughter improves your physical well-being just as much? Seniors get even more benefit from laughter in senior care. Here’s how.
Emotional Benefits of Senior Laughter
A 2011 clinical study showed that when you laugh, your body sends a signal to your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that send messages back to your body, telling it to calm down or pay less attention to physical pain.
The study demonstrated that laughter improves emotional well-being. A good case of the giggles helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Laughing also helps you overcome anger and resentment faster.
Physical Benefits of Senior Laughter
The same study showed that when the brain sent out endorphins to other parts of the body, people had a higher threshold to pain tolerance, making it more tolerable. Here are some other benefits you get when you laugh:
- Boosts immunity
- Lowers stress hormones
- Relaxes muscles
- Burns calories
- Prevents heart disease
Social Benefits of Senior Laughter
A 2012 study by the University of California, San Francisco, showed some astonishing results about the effects of loneliness on senior citizens. The study reported:
- 18% of seniors live alone
- 43% of seniors reported feeling lonely on a regular basis
- Lonely seniors aged 60 and older had a 45% increase in risk for death
- Isolated seniors had a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline
Laughter in senior care brings seniors together to strengthen their relationships and decrease their sense of isolation. Laughter among senior citizens enhances a sense of teamwork and attracts other individuals to them.
Alt text: Laughter has positive social benefits for seniors
How to Bring Laughter to Senior Care
The best way to bring laughter to senior care is to look for resources within your own community. Let’s take a look at how some others have done it.
Intergenerational Communities and Programs
By nature, the relationship between seniors and children is inherently playful and loving. Children make seniors laugh. Seniors get many other benefits from interacting with children and youth:
- Learning innovations and technologies
- Burning 20% more calories
- Experiencing fewer falls
- Having less reliance on canes
- Performing better on memory tests than their peers
Generations United and Chancellor’s Village are good examples.
A new health trend is senior Laughter Yoga. It’s a therapeutic alternative that combines clapping, deep breathing, and laughter exercises. In the beginning, instructors encourage participants to laugh on demand, but over the course of a session, laughing transitions to being genuine and spontaneous. Help seniors laugh their way to happiness, with a Laughter Yoga session.
Alt text: Laughter Yoga is therapeutic, fun, and senior-friendly
Sibley’s Laugh Café
Sibley’s Laugh Café was the brainchild of Senior Association director, Marti Bailey, who came up with the idea after learning about the benefits of Laughter Yoga.
For a good laugh, Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington invites seniors to the hospital for an afternoon of chuckles and side-splitting laughs. What is the cost of admission? After paying the one-time fee of $40, the monthly admission fee costs just one joke.
Final Grins on Laughter in Senior Care
Laughing Improves the emotional, physical, and social health of senior citizens and extends the years of their lives. Mayo Clinic states that laughter has short and long-term benefits. The best part is that laughing doesn’t cost a penny. That’s a better deal than the 10% senior discount.
By Adinah East, MPA
VP Quality Improvement
Caring People Homecare Agency
2432 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10458