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In this episode of Grey Matters, Tracey and Ben discuss the importance of laughter as we age.

Social interaction is important for all of us at all stages of our lives and research is now showing us just how important it is for older people. Loneliness can have far-reaching health impacts and can have a worse impact on people than smoking or obesity. Find out how to avoid this with tips on adding social interaction, friendships and laughter into your life.

Key points discussed:

  • Effects of loneliness on the elderly
  • Depression in older people
  • The importance of social connections to mental health
  • Laughter and is health benefits
  • Benefits of friendships as we age
Read Full Transcript

Ben Davis:
Good day again. On this episode of Grey Matters, laughter is the best medicine. Ben Davis with you along with Tracey Silvester from Seasons Aged Care. Tracey, we are social beasts. That shouldn't change and it mustn't change as we get older.

Tracey Silvester:
No, Ben. In fact, the research is suggesting that things like loneliness, which is an affliction that seems to be increasingly putting its force on older people, can actually have similar or worse effects on people as things like obesity and smoking. The health effects-

Ben Davis:
Really?

Tracey Silvester:
Of people being lonely is actually really significant. If you think about it, you get married, you have children, we're talking about people who have often lasted the distance in a marriage. So you're talking about a group of people who on the whole, have been with the same person for the better part of 50, 55, 60 years and then all of a sudden, that person, one of them passes away and you have the one that's left behind without any social networks. Because over the years, they've lost a lot of those social networks because as a couple, they've always done everything together, their social networks have been faced around them as a couple.

Ben Davis:
Yeah.

Tracey Silvester:
The other thing that you see in older people as well is all their friends have passed away. And so, we see that a lot in Seasons, people actually moving in and they're actually quite depressed and the incidents of depression in older people is quite significant. What we try and do with people is actually restore their social connectivity if you like. Give them back some friendships, give them the opportunities to participate socially in activities that they want to participate in and it's amazing what it does to their mental health but the really interesting thing is what it does to their physical health. All of a sudden, people who had lost weight because they weren't eating properly, amazingly, they start eating three meals day and they're laughing and they're hanging out with people who are friends. All of a sudden, their health issues that they had aren't so significant anymore. People with arthritis, they’ve still got the arthritis but all of a sudden, the pain from that arthritis isn't the same anymore because they forget about that because they're actually having fun.

Ben Davis:
Yeah, and that's why laughter is the best medicine and-

Tracey Silvester:
Absolutely.

Ben Davis:
It's the benefit of community living as opposed to retirement village living.

Tracey Silvester:
We've got a lady who lives with us who was living in a huge big brick house down the South side and she realised, she told us that she could go days without talking to another human.

Ben Davis:
Really.

Tracey Silvester:
So she came down to Seasons. She had a look around and she said, “you beauty, this is where I want to live," and she's probably 89, 90 now and she says she never even had this many friends when she was married.

Ben Davis:
Wow.

Tracey Silvester:
So her quality life has improved so significantly.

Ben Davis:
It's eye-opening stuff because when you think of mental health issues for those who are ageing, loneliness doesn't pop into my head. You think of perhaps the dementia or Alzheimer's kicking in and that's it.

Tracey Silvester:
Yes. It's that pure loneliness. You imagine, sitting in your house all day every day and going for days without talking to another human.

Ben Davis:
I couldn't.

Tracey Silvester:
And what that must do to your mental health but what it actually must do to your capacity to live in the world because over time, it's a bit like if you don't use it, you lose it. If you're not interacting with other human beings, you must become older than you need to be, quicker than you need to be.

Ben Davis:
Tracey, this is great advice. That's why laughter is the best medicine and remember, grey matters.

 

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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.
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