Do Seniors Appreciate a Good Laugh?

Do seniors have a sense of humor?

Yes and No!

No, if you have children who badger you endlessly to buy them the latest in personal electronic instruments, i.e., iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.

Yes, but in ways younger people cannot understand or misinterpret.

For example, Jennifer Stanley, a psychology professor at the University of Akron, Ohio, did a study on people of various ages by showing them different sitcom clips and asked them to rate the “funniness” of each.

Her findings?

Elderly participants didn’t find the aggressive type of humor – laughing at the expense of others – funny.

What made them laugh was affiliative humor – jokes that bring people together through a funny or awkward situation.

Jennifer posited that this is probably their way of coping with their losses as a result of aging – physical and emotional setbacks, declining cognitive faculties, and loss of friends who passed away.

In another study, Brian Carpenter, a psychology professor, theorized that because of the decline in their cognitive faculties, seniors may have a harder time understanding what the joke is about.

This story illustrates Carpenter’s point:

An elderly gentleman and a young whippersnapper were sitting in a bar counter when the bartender cracked a wry joke.

Only the young guy laughed.

When he left, the old guy lets out a howl of laughter.

The bartender was confused and wondered what gives.

The elderly, it turned out, found the joke funny but didn’t get it immediately.

What these studies show is that elderly people have a sense of humor. They just have a different taste or may not see the punch line immediately.

In a sense this is good for the world.

Can you imagine if the approximately 876 million people aged 65+, worldwide, could no longer find humor in life? It will be like having a second Ice Age – the world will be very cold.

Without the glowing smile of seniors, life would be less colorful, without their boisterous laughter, a grave would be merrier.

And on the personal side, what can a good laughter do for the elderly?

For starters, if it doesn’t make them live longer, it will make them die happier.

And here’s more:

Benefits of a good sense of humor:

A good laughter makes you feel good. And it is contagious.

Studies upon studies show that laughing is good for the health. But we don’t need to pore over scientific documents to see how uplifting good laughter is.

On specific ways, laughter is…

1. Like an anti-oxidant:

A good laughter relieves stress, one of the major culprits in the body’s production of free radicals – those microscopic fellas which could do untold damage to your body.

With stress taken out of the picture, your body can manufacture more anti-oxidants which help in boosting your immune system.

On top of that, laughter decreases your stress hormones, like cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenalin which are known to constrict blood vessels, affecting their function.

2. A pain killer:

Laughter induces your body to produce endorphins, a powerful chemical that reacts with brain receptors making it reduce or block pain.

Having aches and pains? Roar in laughter!

3. An exercise for the internal organs:

Have you ever experienced spasms in your abdomen after a very long laughing session with friends?

That’s because your tummy muscles were given a vigorous exercise. You might even get a 6 pack abs if you keep it often enough.

4. A good way to make your day:

A smile, a little laughter shared with family and friends go a long way in making your day more pleasant and joyful.

5. A good emotional relief valve:

That little cover with a small hole covering a kettle spout, the whistler, serves a more noble purpose than let you know that the water is boiling – it relieves pressure.

Laughter is your “whistler,” to help you remove some pressures from depression, anger, frustrations, grief, etc. I am sure you know how it feels after laughing these off.

6. Good for the heart:

Laughter expands your lungs and increases oxygen levels in the body, which in turn,

stimulates the heart.

7. Good for increasing memory, alertness and learning:

A study at John Hopkins University Medical School showed that when humor was introduced before taking a test, students who had a good laugh scored higher.

It did not say if they studied more.

On the social side, a good sense of humor helps in:

1. Strengthening relationships;

2. Attracting others to you;

3. Enhancing teamwork and cooperation;

4. Defusing conflicts;

5. Promoting group bonding.

While tons of data show that laughter is good for the health and relationships, adults poor fairly in the sense of humor department. While children are known to laugh at least 400 times a day, adults could barely manage 20 smiles.

So how can you improve this?

These may sound outlandish but they are worth trying;

o Occupy your thoughts with things or situations that make you laugh

o Think of people who can make fun out of any situation;

o See a funny movie, read a funny book, subscribe to websites that send you jokes for the day;

o Go to a children’s playground and laugh with the children;

o Count your blessings;

o Or just plain looking at yourself in the mirror and smile. It lifts your mood and keeps wrinkles away.

Arthur Ward said, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

And when you are well past your 60s, life is like walking a tightrope. You can trip and fall anytime.

So smile, be happy and have a good laugh. That is the safety net that can break your fall.