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We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’. What you may find surprising is how true this statement actually is and how laughter improves wellbeing for seniors.

Many studies over the years have concluded that laughter has a wide range of health benefits. Most recently, laughter has been attributed to improving the memory of older people.

Laughter is intrinsic to human nature. We laugh as babies long before we learn to formulate words and it helps us deal with upsetting situations. Stress can cause your body to have higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which over time can shrink the hippocampus in your brain, essential for memory formation and retention.

For elderly individuals whose memories aren’t as sharp as they once were, a good dose of laughter can do wonders for decreasing the levels of cortisol in their body, drastically improving their memory. Laughing also releases endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward. This can be a major help for an elderly person who is feeling depressed or socially isolated.

Other studies have found that laughter also improves a person’s blood flow, immune system and blood pressure levels while acting as a great form of aerobic exercise and pain relief. It’s even a great way to improve a person’s weight.

You should encourage your elderly loved ones to laugh regularly and for extended periods of time, to help combat memory loss and a range of other health issues.

How you can encourage laughter with your loved ones

To keep your elderly loved ones sharp and healthy you can try a whole range of activities to get them laughing. Why not sit down as a family and watch some of your favourite comedies? You can all laugh as a group, which helps people get in the mood.

Another great way to encourage laughing is through playing games. Whether they are board games like Pictionary or an acting game like Charades, the more silly the game, the more likely everyone is to have a great time and laugh.

You could also reminisce about funny stories from the past. It’s likely your elderly loved one has many humorous stories they can retell so you can all laugh together. While they’re improving their memory through laughter, they’re also exercising their brain by remembering the past.

Laughing groups are becoming a popular way to get some laughter in your life, usually meeting weekly to laugh together. This may be a great opportunity for your elderly loved ones to make new friends and socialise, while really working their laughing muscles. Don’t worry, it’s okay to fake it at first, but it’s likely you’ll be laughing hard in no time!

Next time you see your elderly loved ones, remember to encourage them to laugh. They’ll feel healthier and happier, and have a much more positive outlook on life.

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Tracey Silvester
Tracey Silvester is Executive Manager of Envigor and has more than 25 years’ experience in health and aged care services. Tracey is committed to ensuring that our elders are able to exercise their right to choose how they live their lives regardless of their ability or function. Tracey is a Registered Nurse and has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Health Management. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Australian College of Health Service Management and a surveyor with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.