A Dose of Humor

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors Emeritus

Websites promise that “growing old can be funny.”

Older woman laughing

Although we know from experience that healthy aging is not all fun and games, laughter might be worth a second look.

The prestigious American Medical Association suggests that having a sense of humor could be a key to healthy aging.

The benefits of laughter have been well-documented. Laughing boosts the level of oxygen in the blood and endorphins (“feel good” chemicals.)  Laughter also boosts T-cells in the immune system. Laughing works the diaphragm and improves “cough efficacy,” which is especially appreciated by those with lung issues. “Genuine voiced laughter” also raises the rate of burning calories.
But as we age, the social benefits might surpass the physical advantages. Laughing alone is good, but laughing with another person supports socialization. With the current epidemic of loneliness among older adults, this is an added benefit.
Although humor is often used to grab attention, humor can be offensive. Even “sanitized” senior jokes that are viewed as funny might have negative connotations when the topic is serious for an older adult. Sometimes an important message can get lost or buried when humor is misunderstood. The punch line, which emerges at the end of a joke, is sometimes spoken quickly and can be difficult to hear. My husband has learned that I simply don’t “get” most of his jokes. Perhaps you’ve had similar experiences, either as the listener or the jokester.
So is looking for humor worth the effort as we age?
“Yes,” say gerontologists. The social and physical benefits of a hearty laugh can be a valued element in our repertoire of assets during aging. Simply consult a concordance: the Bible offers 25 verses related to laughter and joy. For starters, look at Proverbs 17:22.

To incorporate more humor into daily living, try these tips:

  • Joke about a personal experience. This generates humor at our own expense. Such self-deprecating humor is generally not offensive and can be a social bridge to others.
  • Follow the lead of friends. A casual and light-hearted conversation offers an ideal background for an honest laugh.
  • Go online. Cruise the Internet to find things that will help you laugh. Sign up to receive a free daily joke. Or, just look at websites; some will surely generate a response!
  • Change your internal dialogue. Aging brings challenges. Shift your brain to look for the positive. You might not laugh, but even a smile will brighten your day.

Check out this video to hear 3 things older adults can do to brighten a grumpy mood.

Grandfather laughing with young grandchildren

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

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