As the joint family structure crumbles and youngsters steer away from parents, older adults, particularly in the West, find themselves alone either in aged care facilities or old-age homes. They are prone to frequent bouts of depression that often leads to a debilitating condition. About 80% of older adults have one chronic condition, and 50% have at least two.

Reliable and sustainable therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga are a sound form of complementary medicine for seniors that can help keep them in good health and good cheer. Its exercises are low-impact, well tolerated, and this unique approach offers a complete methodology that is easily adaptable to all levels of cognitive, sensory and motor abilities. Best of all: It’s fun! People’s participation is invited and not imposed.

At the beginning, I felt silly, but then I forgot about my pain. You look around and see everybody laughing and smiling. It’s a lot of fun.Millie Mund, suffers from osteoporosis, arthritis and circulatory problems

Factors Affecting Seniors and How Therapeutic Laughter Can Help

Decline of cognitive faculties Faced with age-related troubles, seniors find that their physical and mental faculties decrease. The degeneration of the brain cells makes it difficult for many seniors to understand and organize facts, let alone humor. Simple tasks become difficult, frustration levels rise making it harder for them to laugh. Approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga that do not rely on humor are ideal for seniors to help them reap the many benefits of laughter to improve their health and wellbeing because there is very little to understand. A minimum of cognitive skills are required. As little as one hour of practice per week (more is of course better) helps to increase memory, thinking ability and intellectual capacity. People with senile dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s show remarkable improvement. Read more.

Isolation Seniors are always in need of human contact. They may be surrounded by like-minded peers, but often still miss the bonding of a family and someone close with whom they can share their emotions. Laughter can help because laughing together can greatly improve cooperation and empathy between people of different cultural backgrounds. It fosters better communication, which leads to a less confrontational approach in tense situations and a change from individual competitiveness to team cooperation. Voluntary simulated laughter in particular is most beneficial for very socially and culturally diverse groups thanks to its universal and inclusive nature, because it means that they can all join in and develop a sense of belonging. Therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga can give seniors that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.

Physical illness We now know that a big reason for frequent sickness is due to  a lack of oxygen in the body cells. Therapeutic methodologies such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga help people to laugh comfortably for extended periods of time as a form of elective exercise, significantly increasing their supply of oxygen in the process. Laughter practitioners of all ages with chronic pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found attacks to become less frequent. Many people with high blood pressure, severe spinal, neck or shoulder problems and even diabetes have found their life normalizing. Many people with depression, anxiety and chronic stress related diseases have reported moving from debilitating fear and anxiety to a more positive state of mind, transforming their quality of life. Read more.

Physical immobility A sedentary lifestyle, illness and lack of physical exercise cause stiffness of limbs and muscles, and lead to immobility and pain and aches. Physical fitness stemming from laughter is a benefit known to few. When you laugh, all your body systems are affected in a positive manner. It is particularly important for seniors as well as bedridden or wheelchair-bound people. Read more.

Stress and Depression A big stressor for seniors is a feeling of being useless after retirement. It can lead to major depression and mental agony. Lack of importance creates frustration and many a times proves extremely detrimental to physical and mental health. Laughter helps to reduce stress and generate a positive attitude. Laughing together in a group also helps to boost self-esteem and overcome feelings of insecurity. (Read more.)

Relevant Studies

Effect of Laughter Yoga on Psychological Well-being and Physiological Measures. Adv Mind Body Med. 2016 Winter;30(1):12-20.

We have also heard of but have not yet taken the time to look for published references for:

International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. People with severe diseases increased survival rate by 31%, if they had a sense of humor.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology – Sven Svebak. This study included 54,000 Norwegians studied over a seven year period. Some of the results are listed below.

  • Adults who have a sense of humor live longer.
  • In a study of a subgroup of 2015 people who had a cancer diagnosis, a great sense of humor cut chances of death by 70% as compared to people with a poor sense of humor.
  • Those diagnosed with a severe disease and a good sense of humor increased their survival rate by 35%.
Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement. In a 20 year study, results showed that a more positive view was connected to an increased lifespan of 7.8 years.

Psychosomatic Medicine (Journal). A study was done on 193 volunteers, who were asked to record their positive and negative emotions for two weeks. After this period, each was exposed to a cold or flu virus. A few results are listed below.

  • Fewer positive thinkers became infected.
  • Positive thinkers who became infected had less pronounced symptoms.
  • 28% positive thinkers developed symptoms compared to 41% of negative thinkers.
University of Kentucky. In a longitudinal study of a group of nuns, the following was reported.
  • Nine of the ten most positive 25% were still alive at age 85.
  • One out of three of the least positive were still alive at age 85.
  • A positive emotion correlated to a ten year increase in life span, which is greater than the difference between smokers and non-smokers.

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