Every culture values jokes and laughter. Laughter can immediately boost our mood and brighten our day. Even though everyone doesn’t necessarily have the same sense of humor, everyone enjoys laughing at something. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget the importance of laughter and specifically how laughter with seniors can be overlooked.
Respect and reverence for older adults may make people hesitate before sharing jokes with them. They may worry about seeming rude or offensive, or they may think that their style of humor won’t be appreciated. No matter our age, we all feel a desire and an urge to laugh. Older adults need laughter just as much as younger generations, and they may even benefit from it more.
Benefits of Laughter for Seniors
We laugh because it feels good but we also experience a number of health benefits from humor. Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies on the effects of laughing on our emotional, cognitive, and physical health.
Here Are Some of the Best Benefits of Laughter for Older Adults
Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
Laughter may not be all you need if you have a mental health condition. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental or emotional concern, therapy may be necessary for overcoming these challenges.
However, laughter for seniors can alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Laughing releases endorphins, the neurochemicals in your brain that boost your mood. A good laugh can make you feel happier and improve your outlook on life, and regularly adding humor to your day can lead to long-term improvement in your mental health.
Connection With Others
Older adults are at a severe risk of isolation and loneliness. Multiple losses, disability, health problems and a number of other factors can make it much harder to see friends or family and participate in social events.
Laughter is one of the simplest but most powerful ways to connect with others, so it’s a valuable experience for those experiencing isolation. When you know that the person next to you is laughing at the same joke, you feel a sense of camaraderie without even needing to speak. The social benefits of laughter for older adults are profoundly important as many seniors crave the connection that laughter creates.
Stress is a natural part of life, but extreme or long-term stress can lead to mental and physical health problems. Seniors are often at an increased risk of chronic stress because they’re going through so many life transitions and people often lose much of their support network as they age.
Laughter is one of the best ways to relieve both short-term and chronic stress. It’s a great distraction from stressful life events and using humor more frequently can help you handle difficult situations without letting them affect your well-being.
Research shows that laughter can reduce your levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. It also reduces adrenaline, another stress-related hormone. One study found that stress hormones decreased before the participants even watched anything funny. Simply anticipating something funny and getting ready to laugh can be enough to reduce stress.
Memory issues are one of the most common concerns among seniors. Laughter is surprisingly an excellent way to maintain cognitive health. Cortisol and other stress hormones can contribute to memory problems but laughter combats stress and keeps your mind grounded in the present.
One study found that older adults who watched humorous videos showed better learning ability and better recall than those who didn’t view the videos. This shows that laughter for seniors can improve short-term memory, which makes a massive difference in your independence and in your overall quality of life.
The benefits of laughter aren’t only emotional or social. It also has a measurable effect on physical health. One study examined the effects of a weekly stand-up comedy show on older adults and found that laughter therapy caused a decrease in blood pressure and in heart rate. Cardiovascular health problems are particularly common in older adults, so any activities that improve blood flow and heart health are valuable.
Intense laughter can almost feel like a workout. It engages your muscles and your nerves, so it’s a great way to promote physical fitness for seniors. Laughter is especially great for your abdominal muscles as they expand and contract repeatedly, which is similar to a core workout.
Stronger Immune System
Your immune system relies on a number of other health factors to thrive. Many of the benefits of laughter contribute to a stronger immune system, which is incredibly valuable for seniors who are battling common medical conditions. When you incorporate laughter therapy into your routine, the reduced blood pressure, stronger muscles, and decrease in stress all help your immune system work as effectively as possible.
How to Add More Laughter to Your Life
Finding opportunities to laugh can be challenging for some seniors, especially those who feel lonely, anxious, or depressed. You may have to go out of your way to get more humor in your life, but the benefits of laughter are worth the effort.
TV, movies, and stand-up comedy are great sources of humor that are accessible for seniors. All comedians have different styles, but once you find an actor or a performer who makes you laugh, seek out their other work.
Spending time with friends and family is a good way to laugh more, too. When you feel close with someone, you’re more likely to relax and joke around. You and your loved ones can reminisce on funny situations you’ve been in, which can be a great form of family bonding. If you and your family are comfortable with playful teasing, you may get a good laugh out of some harmless jokes directed toward each other.
Games can be a fun, social way to laugh as well. You and your family or friends could play Pictionary, charades, trivia games, or other games that encourage you to be silly and laugh.
If you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone, you could even try a laughter yoga class. Laughter yoga is the practice of voluntarily laughing as part of a group. Often times, intentionally laughing with others leads to genuine, involuntary laughter.
However you decide to incorporate humor in your life, what matters is that you feel the joy of laughing. It improves your physical and mental health and it helps you connect with others. Try to find something to laugh at every day to elevate your mood and improve your well-being.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling offers therapy services for older adults. Whether you’re seeking treatment for a diagnosed mental health condition or looking for ways to handle stress or loneliness, we’re here to help. Contact us today to connect with a licensed therapist in your area.