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Older Australians face life and health challenges with laughter

More older Australians are allowing themselves to be swept up in a fit of giggles and belly laughs for their wellbeing.

And they’re not resorting to the comedy nights at the local pub or funny movies to laugh.

In fact, they’re laughing without humour or comedy: they’re using laughter as an exercise to make them feel good.

The inner child of elders is freed during practice of laughter yoga, a blend of deep yogic breaths and simulated laughter generated through playful gentle exercises.

Laughter yoga was developed more than 20 years ago by an Indian physician and has spread to become a global movement practised by all ages.

And while it benefits all ages, there are at least 5 good reasons seniors laugh for wellness.

5 benefits of laughter yoga for seniors

  1. Loma Linda University research has confirmed mirthful laughter can improve short-term memory by winding back the stress hormones that impair our ability to learn and remember
  2. Laughter has many proven physical benefits, including strengthening the immune system which is so important for staying well and recovering from health setbacks.
  3. Laughter yoga supports good mental health, working like a tonic to help beat feelings of depression, frustration, anxiety; even grief.
  4. A laugh shared connects people, dissolving loneliness.
  5. A more positive attitude to life brings with it a willingness to live life more fully.

Research recently published in the Australian Journal on Ageing evaluated the effects of a laughter yoga activities program for older people living in residential aged care and revealed improvements over 6 weeks in mood and blood pressure.

While laughter yoga is practised (for all ages) in community-based volunteer-led laughter clubs throughout the world, the growing acceptance of laughter yoga as a wellbeing tool sees more interest in it being offered in residential aged care centres and day respite centres with diversional therapists and lifestyle activity coordinators training as laughter leaders or contracting trained professionals to run sessions.

And then there are older residents in retirement villages like Elizabeth, 71. Elizabeth (pictured right with fellow laugher Jenny) is a regular at her neighbourhood community laughter club, The Gap Kookaburras  Laughter Club.

“It’s wonderful for lifting the spirits and breaking down barriers,” says Elizabeth who has faced health concerns and an interstate relocation to move closer to family. Laughter is a great leveller – and oh, we can feel the difference physically afterwards!”

It is a part of nature that we age… but growing old? Well that may be a state of mind. As comedian Michael Pritchard pointed out:

You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.

(c) Heather Joy Campbell 2017

Founder of The Happydemic, Heather Joy Campbell is a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher based in Brisbane, Australia, who delivers professional laughter wellbeing workshops, seminars and laughter leader training across Queensland. She also runs a weekly suburban laughter club.