Have you ever noticed that the most spry, healthiest seniors always seem to have a smile on their faces?
Laughter isn’t just a great way to connect with others — it’s a science-backed way for seniors to feel happier, be healthier and even live longer. Research into the benefits of humor show that among seniors, laughter is especially powerful.
In addition to its short-term impact, laughter also leads to more positive neural pathways, which in turn help people stay more positive, counter depression and ward off anxiety.
To celebrate National Humor Month, Reflections Management and Care is exploring 8 health benefits of laughter in seniors. We hope to inspire you to share more lighthearted moments with your loved one!
Laughter in seniors causes the body to release endorphins, which lower pain levels and induce feelings of happiness. Acting as a natural pain reliever, these neurotransmitters help soothe the nervous system and bring about a greater sense of happiness and well-being. On top of feeling better emotionally, endorphins may help reduce physical discomfort as well.
People who laugh more tend to have more positive thoughts as well. A negative mindset can lead to rumination, the psychological process of focusing on unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Rumination can cause and worsen depression, which affects over 2 million adults in the U.S. age 65 and older.
By embracing humor, seniors can improve their mental outlook and enjoy a more positive attitude every day. Although they will still experience stress and negative moods, having a positive mindset can help them build resilience and rebound more easily.
Seniors who laugh more may have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of developing vascular diseases. Stress can lead to higher blood pressure, which in turn increases inflammation throughout the body. This puts seniors at risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease and some types of cancer.
Because laughter naturally lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, it also reduces blood pressure levels. Being in a good mood, finding the humor in life and laughing regularly improves an elderly person’s total well-being.
Laughter in senios also expands the blood vessels, which helps improve circulation and blood flow throughout the body. This is important in delivering oxygen-rich air to the brain and forming new cells. As a result, this can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Doubling over with laughter can certainly feel like a workout. It turns out that having a hearty laugh engages almost every muscle in the body, especially the abdominal wall. Engaging the muscles and stimulating the nerves is important to senior fitness, especially those who may have reduced mobility.
While watching a comedy film may not replace physical fitness, it can still play a vital role in improving senior wellness and physical health.
The activation of muscles also helps simultaneously reduce tension. Because we may not always recognize where we’re holding stress, engaging the body through laughter is an easy way to quickly contract and release pent-up tension.
Among older adults, losing their memory is one of the greatest fears they encounter. Those with Alzheimer’s and dementia may experience a faster progression of memory loss without intervention. While there is no cure for dementia, laughter may be able to slow the progression and severity of symptoms.
As laughter in seniors lowers cortisol levels, memory function improves. Short-term memory is highly influenced by the stress hormone, which can make recollection difficult when tension runs high. Sharing a laugh with your loved one each day can improve their overall memory and cognitive function.
Laughter in seniors promotes the production of disease-fighting immune cells and antibodies. This can make seniors more resistant to illness as well as more resilient after falling sick. While aging does affect the strength of the immune system, there are significant ways to counteract it. Seniors who know how to lower their stress levels have stronger immunity and less health problems overall.
Because laughter increases respiration, blood flow increases and healthy cells are spread more throughout the body. This ultimately helps aid the body’s ability to fight off infection and illness with greater ease.
Additionally, laughter can help ward off the effects of negative emotions. What many do not realize is that depression, stress, anxiety and worry manifest as chemicals throughout the body. These brain chemicals can lead to health problems, but laughter can help counteract them by producing dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Senior isolation and loneliness are rising problems, even among those who are frequently in touch with family and friends. Unfortunately, as adult children and friends move further away, many seniors fall into a solitary lifestyle that has little positive interaction.
Laughing helps everyone connect, no matter their age, race or background. Everyone feels better when they share a laugh, and there are few things that can feel quite as relieving and heart-warming than embracing a humorous moment with someone you care about.
Help your loved one feel more connected and included by embracing humor regularly. If you aren’t sure how to get the ball rolling, you can simply begin by reminiscing funny memories you share. Smiling more naturally increases your own happiness, which can improve your loved one’s attitude as well.
While depression can endure for years, there are ways to help seniors manage their symptoms effectively. Even as they struggle with mental health, laughter and comedic moments provide temporary relief from their problems.
By embracing humor and laughter in seniors, they can help change their brain’s neural wiring to be more positive. Depression creates pathways that increase a person’s tendency to dwell on the negative. Laughing disrupts these channels, creating opportunity for more hope and positive change.
Reflections Management and Care is a leading provider of senior health care services in Baldwinsville, NY. Our specialists help caregivers and their elderly loved ones manage health and happiness throughout Syracuse and Onondaga County. If you would like to learn more about us, please click here. You can also explore our blog, or send us a message to schedule a consultation.