Faced with age-related troubles, many older adults find that their physical and mental faculties decrease. The degeneration of mental capacity makes it difficult to understand and organize facts — let alone humor. Simple tasks become difficult and frustration levels rise, making it harder to laugh. Laughter Yoga is a simple, gentle and fun way that practically anybody can learn to laugh unconditionally without humor. That makes it a perfect match for older adults with reduced cognitive functioning to access the health benefits of laughing.
The laughter used in Laughter Yoga differs from conditional laughter that depends on the stimulus of humor. To enjoy the laughter used in Laughter Yoga, it is not necessary to have a wide degree of mental functioning, such as attention span, working memory, flexible thinking, extraction of word meaning, or a positive mood. Instead the laughter in laughter yoga is initiated as bodily exercise. Older adults do not need extensive cognitive skills or an initial positive mood to reap the health and wellness benefits of laughter. Laughter in this manner is universal.
As little as one hour of practice per week helps to increase memory, thinking ability and intellectual capacity. People with various forms of dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease show remarkable improvement.
People of all ages need meaningful human contact. Older adults may be surrounded by like-minded peers, but often still miss the bonding of family or someone close with whom they can share their emotions. Laughter helps because laughing together greatly improves empathy and cooperation. It fosters better communication, which leads to less confrontation and more cooperation rather than competition. In particular, voluntary simulated laughter is beneficial for socially and culturally diverse groups thanks to its universal and inclusive nature, inviting all to join in and develop a sense of belonging. Laughter Yoga enables older adults to experience that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.
We now know that a big reason for frequent sickness is due to a lack of oxygen in the body cells. Laughter Yoga helps people to laugh comfortably for extended periods of time as a form of elective exercise, significantly increasing their supply of oxygen in the process. Laughter practitioners of all ages with chronic pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found attacks become less frequent. Many people with high blood pressure, severe spinal, neck or shoulder problems and even diabetes have found their life normalizing. Many people with depression, anxiety and chronic stress related diseases have reported moving from debilitating fear and anxiety to a more positive state of mind, transforming their quality of life.
Moving from a lifelong home in the community into a residential care facility is a major life transition for older adults that can lead to mental agony and depression. As they navigate the change from living independently to residing in institutional settings, older adults often lament the loss of friends, as well as personal possessions such as their home and car, along with their feelings of autonomy. The psychological and interpersonal benefits of group laughter help to alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety and isolation that often accompany this major life transition.
During periods of joyfulness, physiological and biochemical changes take place that afford a sense of wellbeing, and over time can alter negative outlooks on life and its challenges.
Laughter Yoga techniques are effective even for people who have lost their laughter or have very little sense of humor in the first place. In our work we have witnessed many people who rarely smiled as adults who are now laughing playfully like children.