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A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: How Humor Helps Seniors Age Well

We all know that laughing with others is a great way to improve your day, boost your mood and make the world seem like a better place. But did you know that laughter can actually help you age well while also keeping you healthier?

“Laughter really is the best medicine, especially for senior adults,” says Devon Sicard, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. “It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies become more susceptible to health concerns and illnesses. That’s why it becomes so important to take care of our bodies – and our minds and souls – so that we can continue to enjoy life and enjoy our golden years as much as possible.”

Devon says that it’s never too late to take steps to improve your health (and find more humor in your everyday life). “One of our goals at Waterstone at Wellesley is for our residents to age well and enjoy all that life has to offer,” she says. “Part of that means creating a lifestyle that’s engaging, fulfilling and, yes, filled with humor and happiness. We want our residents to enjoy this stage of life because it’s truly their time to live to the fullest.”

So how is it that humor helps seniors achieve wellness? Studies have found six different ways that laughter helps us feel good, live good and age well throughout our senior years. That’s definitely something to smile about!

1. It reduces pain.
When we laugh, our brains produce endorphins, which help our bodies regulate pain. That effect lasts for hours, long after we’ve stopped laughing. Laugher also causes cortisol to drop, which reduces inflammation, pain and stress throughout the body. Less pain means it’s easier to exercise and do the things we love, which results in a better quality of life.

2. It’s good for our hearts.
When we enjoy a good guffaw over something funny, our blood vessel function improves, which reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Our hearts pump a little faster (in a more efficient way) when we laugh, which boosts circulation and blood oxygenation. All this leads to better cardiovascular health, which helps reduce the risk of heart diseases and other cardiovascular issues. Since heart issues are the leading cause of death in America, laughter potentially can save your life. 

3. It reduces stress.
Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies by increasing our levels of anxiety and depression, reducing the efficiency of our immune system, impacting our sleep and eating habits and generally causing poor health. Laughter is one of the best and most immediate ways to combat stress. Think about how you feel when you laugh. Automatically, everything that’s bothering you seems to melt away in that moment, and you’re focused solely on the enjoyment of the present. In a way, that makes laughter a form of meditation and mindfulness – and one that you don’t need to ‘om’ your way toward. 

4. It helps us nurture relationships.
Humor brings us closer together, which is incredibly powerful. Anthropologists believe that laughter was developed alongside social interaction, support and community – all things that make us human. No matter where we live or what language we speak, everyone laughs and can find humor in life. When we laugh together, the joy that flows between us helps bind us together in meaningful ways. In fact, some experts believe that all the health benefits that stem from humor are derived from the improved social bonds that are caused by it. 

5. It strengthens your core.
Can you laugh your way to flatter abs? It’s possible! When we laugh at something funny, our diaphragms and abdominal muscles are worked almost as hard as it would if you were doing sit-ups or other core exercises. Strengthening your core also strengthens your back muscles, which can help reduce back pain, improve your breathing and improve your balance, too. At the same time, laughing relaxes other tight muscles in your body that could use a break. 

6. It improves our moods.
It’s hard to be grouchy after you’ve enjoyed a good bout of laughter. You can thank all the feel-good chemicals that are released in your brain for that. Improved moods lead to better emotional health, a more positive outlook and a better sense of well-being and self-worth. Studies have shown that seniors (and other individuals) who enjoy humor have a sense of optimism and also show resilience in the face of adversity and major life stressors. 

How to Add More Humor to Your Life
Cue up your favorite funny TV show and get ready to laugh – now’s the perfect time to find more humor, happiness and laughter in your life. Here are some great ways to find humor throughout the day and get laughing. Think of it like an exercise routine – but one that you actually look forward to doing!

  • Connect with friends. Ever notice how much more we laugh or smile when we’re talking to someone we care about? It all goes back to that social connectedness that humor provides. Pick up the phone and call a friend, meet someone for coffee or send funny cat videos to each other. Not only will you laugh, you’ll make someone else laugh, too.
  • Watch something funny. These days, that’s as easy as scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed. If that sort of humor doesn’t move you, try watching videos of babies giggling – it’s impossible not to start laughing yourself. Go on, we dare you. 
  • Do something nice for yourself. We’re a lot more open to humor and happiness when we feel good and we care for ourselves. Pampering yourself – even if it’s as simple as taking a walk or drinking a cup of coffee outside – will improve your mood and make you more open to the humor that’s all around you. 
  • Try laughter yoga. It sounds silly, but this strange practice has been gaining in popularity across the country and throughout the world. The practice, which originated in Japan, is an actual, established therapy that has shown great health benefits for seniors. It turns out that our bodies can’t tell the difference between fake laughter and real laughter. When you start to laugh – even if it’s fake – the silliness of the practice ends up in genuine guffaws and giggles, especially when you’re practicing it with other people. 
  • Find the funny in everyday moments. Life is funny – if we allow it to be. Watch the squirrels chase each other in the yard, for example. Or find ways to make your partner laugh through a silly turn of phrase or an inside joke. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, either. 
  • Look for things that bring you joy. Laughter doesn’t always have to stem from something funny. Often, it’s a joyful reaction to something that delights you. Play with your dog and watch as he or she wiggles in delight – it’s hard not to smile at that unbridled emotion. By seeking out things that make you happy, you’ll be amazed at how much humor opens up in your life. 

Beautiful Riverfront Community

Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities.

Celebrating Dynamic Living

Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.

Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors.

Assisted Living with the Confidence of Care

The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone.

For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.591.7113.