As the joint family structure crumbles and youngsters steer away from parents, the seniors, 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. Laughter Therapy is indeed the best medicine to be prescribed for seniors to keep them in good cheer. A good Hearty Laughter gets rid of stress, worry and depression. It touches the emotional core and alleviates feelings of loneliness and isolation. Besides being the panacea for good health, laughter generates positive thoughts and reduces the negative strains.
Many seniors are in need of more human contact. While most of them are surrounded by peers whom they like and share similar interests with, many still dearly miss their children and family. Deeper down, what they really miss is the need for someone close to them with whom they can confide their emotions. Laughter can give seniors that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.
Laughter exercises are simple, structured and entertaining. They are easy & safe and provide a genuine form of physical exercise. They are appropriate for all, regardless of their cognitive, sensory or motor abilities / limitations. People’s participation is invited and not imposed.
Laughter Therapy appears to lift depression and replace it with a positive outlook. Health improves, many chronic ailments disappear, the exercise improves mobility and staff-patient communication and relations also improve.
Factors Affecting Seniors and How Laughter Therapy Can Help
Retirement: The biggest stressor for seniors is a feeling of being useless after retirement. It leads to major depression and mental agony. Lack of importance creates frustration and many a times proves extremely detrimental to physical and mental health. Extended hearty laughter helps to reduce stress and generate a positive attitude. Laughing together in a group helps to boost self-esteem and overcome feelings of insecurity.
Lack of Bonding: Laughter Yoga is especially beneficial for older people. Seniors are always in need of human contact. While most of them are surrounded by like minded peers, they still miss the bonding of a family. They need someone close with whom they can share their emotions. Laughter sessions have the power to reach beyond the healing of laughter. The effective network of caring-sharing relationships is the key to a happy and healthy life. Relationships with people become very strong and the feeling of loneliness dissipates. Seniors enjoy the daily meetings as it generates a sense of belonging. Laughter Therapy, The Laughter Wellness program and Laughter Yoga can give seniors that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.
Physical immobility: Sedentary lifestyle, illness and lack of physical exercise cause stiffness of limbs and muscles, leads to immobility and pain and aches. Laughter Exercises coupled with deep diaphragmatic breathing are simple, structured and a lot of fun. They are easy, safe, and economical and provide a genuine form of physical exercise. Regardless of any limitations, cognitive or physical, they are appropriate for all. Extended Hearty Laughter is known to increase muscle movement, mobility and boost the immune system. It increases disease fighting cells and proteins, and triggers release of endorphins (body’s natural painkillers)
Decline of cognitive faculties: Faced with age and age-related troubles, seniors find that their physical and mental faculties decrease. With the beginning of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Senile Dementia, the capacity to comprehend humor declines. 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. Under such conditions Laughter Therapy is ideal for seniors to reap the scientifically proved benefits of laughter to improve their health and well-being. It helps to provide an emotional bonding and is one of the most powerful tools against depression. Since humor is an intellectual phenomenon, seniors find it difficult to laugh without a reason. This is where Laughter Therapy helps them to be able to laugh and start living a life full of joy once again. Being a physical process, it does not require any mental abilities thus helping the older people to understand humor without using their cognitive faculties. A few hours of laughter every day will increase your memory, thinking ability and intellectual capacity. People with senile dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s show remarkable improvement.
Physical illness: Scientific studies have proven that the reason of frequent sickness is because there is a lack of oxygen in the body cells. Laughter and deep breathing exercises help to attain good health by increasing the supply of oxygen. Laughter practitioners of all ages with chronic pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found attacks to become less frequent, and in some cases, to disappear completely. Many people with high blood pressure, severe spinal, neck or shoulder problems and even diabetes have found their life normalizing eventually requiring no medication. 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.
AARP: Laughter Yoga to Improve Health? It’s No Joke
These are exerpts from an article by Sally Abrahms published on August 8, 2008 in the AARP Bulletin Today (30+ million members in the USA). Click here to read the full article.
“At the beginning, I felt silly, but then I forgot about my pain,” says Mund, 85, who has osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure and circulatory problems. “You look around and see everybody laughing and smiling. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Studies indicate that participating in laughter therapy is beneficial in terms of disease control,” says William Fry, M.D., professor emeritus at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“We think this is the real deal,” says Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “There’s no question in my mind that there is some physiological benefit from laughter. Now, we need to translate what those changes in our blood vessels mean clinically.”
Although there’s no scientific explanation, it’s widely known that one of laughter’s most therapeutic characteristics is that it is extremely contagious. Recently, Millie Mund decided to spread a little cheer by introducing laughter yoga to her son, daughter-in-law and adult grandchildren. “They thought I was crazy,” she says, “but before I knew it, they were all doing ho ho, ha ha ha and laughing!”