Jokes about aging have universal appeal. Because most of us can relate to them, we enjoy hearing jokes and telling them. However, the myth that people become grumpy as they age is just that – a myth.
Humor can help us laugh at the age-related changes we all experience as we grow older.
“You know you’re over the hill when your back goes out more than you do.”
“Middle age is when you still believe you’ll feel better in the morning.”
“I intend to live forever - so far, so good!”
What’s interesting is that researchers say maintaining your sense of humor as you age can actually help you live longer, especially if you are a woman.
Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?
Scientists in Norway studied the potential link between humor and health. They looked at the each of the different components of humor: cognitive, social and affective. Their study was made up of 53,556 women and men, and it examined mortality rates based on specific conditions:
- heart disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
After 15-years of exploring the potential link between humor and mortality, here’s what they found:
- For women, “high scores on humor's cognitive component were associated with 48 percent less risk of death from all causes, a 73 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and an 83 percent lower risk of death from infection. “
- Among men, by contrast, only the risk of death from infection was reduced. High humor scores reduced a man’s risk of dying from an infection by 74 percent. Researchers say the “gender differences could be due to a slight decline in humor scores as the men aged.”
The study’s co-author, Sven Svebak, suggests that humor might influence the way people cope with everyday challenges. Adults who can laugh at their daily struggles often manage stress better. Doing so can keep stress hormones, which are linked to a variety of chronic illnesses, from rising.
In addition to helping you keep your stress hormone levels lower, enjoying a good laugh has other health benefits. They include:
- Reduces blood pressure: It does so by expanding the blood vessels and increasing blood flow throughout the body.
- Relaxes muscles: The physical act of laughing helps you relax and relaxes your muscles. That’s why a good belly laugh leaves you feeling happy and calm.
- Helps manage pain: A hearty laugh releases endorphins which can ease chronic aches and pains and help to break the pain-spasm cycle.
- Burns calories: Some have referred to laughter as “internal jogging.” While you won’t burn as many calories as you would running a marathon, 10 to 15 minutes of laughing burns about 50 calories.
- Boost mood: Sharing a good laugh can lift your spirits and boost your mood. People who laugh often are less likely to experience depression and other mental health issues.
Connecting Laughter and Humor with Longer Life
So what can you do to promote humor and laughter in your day and your senior loved one’s?
Here are a few suggestions to try:
- Hang Out with Kids: Children laugh an average of 300 times a day! That is in sharp contrast to adults who laugh only about 17 times each day. Just one more good reason to spend time with your kids and grandkids.
- Socialize More: While we know socializing helps prevent isolation and loneliness, it also helps each of us lighten up and enjoy ourselves. Research shows that when groups of friends and families gather, they are likely to share more than a few laughs.
- Funny Videos: Those funny cat videos you see all over social media? They can provide you with a few good laughs every day. From crazy cats to the antics of baby hippos and giraffes, you can search YouTube to find funny animal videos of all kinds. You can also invest in DVDs of favorite, old-time entertainers seniors probably remember fondly, like Bob Hope or George Burns.
- Joke a Day: Sign yourself and the senior you love up to receive a daily joke via email. If email isn’t for you, buy a few joke books you can share with your older family member or a daily calendar that features a new joke each day.
- Take an Improv Class: And if you are really up for a challenge, sign up for an improve class at your local comedy club or learning annex. You’ll learn a lot about humor and yourself in the process!
We Put the Life in Senior Living
At Benchmark Senior Living communities, humor and laughter are a part of everyday life. Learn more about our Live Well, Live Now program and how we help residents live connected, engaged lives!