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.

Laugh and the Work World Laughs With You

Many of today’s work environments are rife with moody bosses and co-workers, repetitive tasks and unpredictable market pressures. Stress abounds. Managers often tell me they can’t afford the time or cost for my humor workshops; how can they afford not to address workplace stress.

We know clinically that laughter and play have medicinal qualities, offering physical, psychological and physiological benefits as well. In the workplace, humor and fun can increase productivity, encourage creativity, enhance team building, and thus improve esprit de corps.

While we may not be able to control everything that happens to us in our jobs and work environments, we do have control over how we choose to react. I coach others how to create an environment which is safe and friendly, and use humor to help maintain a healthy balance between the pressure and seriousness which comes from high stakes jobs and a competitive marketplace. Remember that humor starts from within. Being able to laugh at your own foibles goes a long way toward creating a healthy work climate in which to flourish.

The following are activities and strategies for you as individuals, workgroups and managers. Be creative and use these ideas to stimulate your own remedies to workplace stress.

– Adorn your work area with cartoons, headlines or funny photos which bring a smile to your face and visiting co-workers’. Whether you’re surrounded by your favorite Pez dispensers childhood, or wry cartoons that speak to your tastes, let your work area comfort and humor you while taking some of the edge off the standard office decor.

– Tap a co-worker to be your humor-partner. Bring a daily joke to share. Commiserate about funny workplace events. Keep each other buoyed with good cheer. When the chips are down your humor partner can chip away at your depression, and vice versa.

– Don’t think cubicles limit your humor options. I’ve seen shower curtains, umbrellas and other devices used effectively to set a light or semi-serious tone. For some, creativity flourishes behind their cubicle’s shower curtain. People tampering with your work area? Don’t get angry…protect it with yellow “Crime Scene” tape!

– Subscribe to a humor website to be e-mailed a free daily or weekly humorous story, joke and anecdote. Sites such as or [] are two examples.

Are You Laughin’ At Me? One manager, known for his moodiness, acknowledged it with a “Mood-O-Meter” outside his door. Both he and his employees took turns forecasting his mood: from fire-breathing to variable clouds to periodic eruptions…proceed at your own risk. Don’t underestimate the power of self-effacing humor for making yourself more accessible and liked.

Room for Laughter. Some companies designate a room, work area or corner of their office as a romper room, where frolicking and silliness is allowed. Whether yours has a punching bag, games, a dartboard or foosball, it’s a room for letting off steam and taking a break from the grind.

Whine Not. Everyone loathes whiners yet we all need to blow off steam periodically. One group of creative trainers and their manager decreed Thursdays to be effective whining days. They self-policed themselves the rest of the week, making sure not to whine. Yet even their Thursday gripes had a departmental sanction and somehow seemed healthier. After all, they belly ached together. A ripple effect actually improved the morale of departments adjacent to theirs!

Meting Out Humor. Many professionals approach meetings with trepidation. A dash of humor can make a difference. For regular meetings earmark one or two minutes each meeting for a humorous interlude. In one workgroup a “humor hand” rotates from meeting to meeting. Employees take turns setting a lighter tone to the meeting, insuring everybody is engaged. An anecdote, verbal or physical activity focuses the group on the task at hand and brings colleagues together in a spirit of fun.

When not to use Humor. Not all humor is good humor. Humor that hurts, ostracizes or is cruel will have a detrimental effect on others and you. Strive for humor that is inclusive, creative and captures our human essence. By now you know that sexist, racist, ageist jokes and crude humor are not only inappropriate, but can lead to sanctions, termination or even lawsuits. Be sensitive when telling jokes involving terminations, reductions in force (RIFs) and personal tragedies. Their hurt can linger long after the fact. . When in doubt…leave it out!

Appropriate humor can make hard tasks easier, collaborations fun and certainly make workdays go faster. Laugh, and the work world laughs with you!

Office Humor: The Fine Line Between a Laugh and a Pink Slip

Humor can bring a breath of fresh air to an otherwise lackluster office environment. But when pulling practical jokes at the office, you can definitely go too far. The following are a few office pranks that are work appropriate, as well as some themes that have no place there.

The Office Appropriate Pranks

The following are a few funny office gags that won’t result in you looking for a new job.

Novelty Pranks

This is where the time-honored oversize pencil comes in. Take the novelty office item a step further – try a prank office stapler. There are some that emit a noticeable, but harmless, electrical shock. Your stapler will never go missing again!

Gag Signs

Try placing a sign such as “Please Do Not Feed the Dorks” outside the information technology department, or try a “Bathrooms Are Closely Monitored” sign that will have people doing a double-take. Official-looking funny prank signs can be some of the best office pranks.

Fake Office Items

Try replacing that often used office item with a prank duplicate. For example, slip a No-Tear Sugar Packet in with the other kitchen supplies and watch as your co-workers struggle gallantly to open it.

Humor With No Place in the Workplace

Walking the line can be difficult, but the following are a few guidelines on office pranks and humor that are entirely inappropriate, and which no one would be surprised to see get you fired.

Jokes That Cause Actual Damage

Super-gluing your co-worker’s phone to his desk may be funny, but always think about the longterm ramifications: Will this office prank actually damage the phone, and if so, who will pay for the damage? While this sort of prank may be great fun, if there is going to be irreversible damage, choose a different good office prank.

Sexual Jokes

In today’s society, sexual harassment is taken very seriously, with many companies having strict policies in place. Any prank or joke that uses material which is sexually-charged or based on gender or sexual orientation is taboo, even if those involved don’t find it offensive. Your office is a group setting – consider all of the staff when planning a prank.

Ethnic and Racial Humor

Any professional will recognize the inappropriateness of jokes and pranks using an individual’s race or ethnicity. What may seem like harmless banter to you may be offensive to non-minorities, and might even be illegal.

Taking the Prank Outside the Office

Imagine this: you and a co-worker are battling – it’s a full on office-appropriate prank war. Sounds like fun. But while you are on the phone, that friend pranks you and you lose a sale. Not funny. Jokes that disrupt important tasks have no place at work and may have you looking for more than a new friend.

It can be a fine line between the joke that gets a laugh and the joke that gets you fired. So consider whether what you think is the best office prank ever might really get you looking for another job.