There aren’t many people who will tell you that laughter and humor are bad for you. In fact, most would argue the opposite. After all laughter has been shown to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase your oxygen flow
- Reduce stress and increase relaxation
- Boost your immune response
- Support memory and learning
- Provide a full body workout
- Make you more alert
- Increase creativity
These are benefits that everyone can experience, but they can be especially helpful to elderly people who find themselves coping with the challenges and changes that can cause depression, feelings of isolation, a sense of lost independence and anxieties about quality of life and death. One of the best things we can do for our elderly loved ones is to help them cultivate humor on a daily basis. Here are a few ways to do just that:
- Be Playful. Who says play is just for the young? Retirement and the elderly years should and can be a joyful, footloose time. Usually there are fewer obligations and there is a lot more time. So:
- Wear a silly hat, just because.
- Place random and funny props around the living space.
- Rent a Marx Brothers movie (or any comedy that would resonate with the elderly person you are caring for).
- Plan a picnic and bring bubbles.
- Help them do something that feels a little naughty—but you know they will enjoy (within reason!)
- Encourage a “Light” Perspective. Humor, in many ways, is really about a healthy perspective on life. Circumstances can easily get “heavy” for elderly folks—especially when they realize certain limitations or face certain challenges. However, how they cope with them is really what makes the difference. So, try to help them find ways to prepare for and laugh at circumstances (and sometimes themselves). Encourage irony, absurdity, relabeling of unpleasant people or situations and symbolic coping. A great way to gain better understanding and skills to develop this kind of perspective is by reading the book, Therapeutic Humor with the Elderly.
- Keep a Joy Journal or Jar. It’s easy for anyone to get bogged down in the challenges of life. Keeping a journal or jar that records the joyful things in life, day-to-day, no matter how big or small, is a great way to find laughter, humor and silliness. It will also help your elderly loved one to cultivate a better awareness of the positive things in life and of course, remind them of what they are grateful This just adds to the benefit of humor and further improves perspective and quality of life.
- Spend Time with Animals. There are ample benefits to owning a pet or being around animals. Aside from providing a soothing presence and companionship, they make us laugh. After all, they are individuals who have their own habits and instincts—sometimes we understand them and sometimes we don’t—but that is what makes us laugh. And, the unconditional love that they provide helps to build confidence and makes us feel like at least somebody gets our humor. Additionally, we can teach them tricks that will have our friends and family delighted. So, they really help us to spread the joy.
These are just a few ways to find humor with your elderly loved one. If you have others to add, please share them with us!