It’s no laughing matter, but the reason why grumpy old men behave in just such a way may finally have been pinpointed. Older adults have a harder time getting jokes as they age because of memory and reasoning problems, according to a new study. The researchers tested 40 healthy adults aged over 65 against 40 undergraduate students with exercises in which they had to correctly complete jokes and funny stories. When asked to choose the correct punchline for verbal jokes, younger participants performed six per cent better than the pensioners.

One joke used during the study was: “A businessman is riding the subway after a hard day at the office. A young man sits down next to him and says, ‘Call me a doctor, call me a doctor’. The businessman asks, ‘What’s the matter, are you sick?’.”

The participants were expected to correctly identify the punchline as: “The young man says, ‘I just graduated from medical school’.”

The alternative options were less amusing, one of which saw the young man replying: “Yes, I feel a little weak. Please help me.”

In addition, the participants were shown cartoons from a comic strip, and asked them to choose between four panels to locate the funny ending.

Three of the choices for each cartoon were the wrong ones and created by an artist for the purposes of the study.

In the test of visual humor, the students did 14 per cent better than the pensioners.

The researchers concluded that comprehension of humour could be affected by problems with cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory associated with old age (you can read the full article at

In conclusion (our own):

  1. Perhaps E.B. White was onto something when he once noted that analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. The procedure kills the essence of both the frog and the funny — and then what’s the point?
  2. This should (hopefully) help many understand that while humor is great, Laughter Yoga is so much easier to implement, generates far more benefits and works with all of all ages…