The Golden Years of Laughter and Humor

What’s the secret to having a smoking hot body as a senior?
What is a prize old people can win for aging?

Perhaps the oldest theory of humor, dating back to Plato and other ancient Greek philosophers, suggested that people find humor in, and laugh at, earlier versions of themselves and the misfortunes of others because of feeling superior. In the 18th century, The Theory of Release, evolved; that is, laughter allowed people to let off steam or release pent-up nervous energy. The Arousal Theory then focused on the cognitive aspects of laughter. While stress increases arousal, laughter helps to reduce this arousal. As a result, the situation doesn’t seem as negative. All in all, this theory proposes that laughter can help reduce negative emotions and unpleasant feelings. Today, many studies that examine the relationship between humor and aging focus on one prominent humor theory called “The Incongruity-Resolution Theory.” (Gerontology, Vol. 59, Issue 5, August, 2013). According to the theory, humor emerges from two incompatible parts that at first do not seem to make sense, but, when the incongruity is resolved, the humor is appreciated. This joke exemplifies the theory:

O’Reilly was on trial for armed robbery.
The jury came out and announced, ‘Not guilty.’
‘Wonderful’, said O’Reilly, ‘does that mean I can keep the money?’

So, humor has remained one of the most important human activities, one that is enjoyed daily by people in every culture and at every age. Resulting laughing is universal: no matter how old one is, what language one speaks or what one’s physical or mental experiences. It’s also instinctual. Infants laugh almost from birth; it’s not a learned behavior. Humans are hardwired for laughter. Research suggests that elderly people enjoy humor more than younger people, but that they have increasing difficulties in understanding it.
Science has some answers to the mystery of human laughter for seniors. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving one’s resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter clearly also serves a social function. It is a way for us to signal to another person that we wish to connect with them. We’re also thirty times more likely to laugh in a group.

He’s so old that when he orders a three-minute egg,
they ask for the money up front.

I’m not old; I’m just chronologically gifted.

You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes
and wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.

At his 103rd birthday party, my grandfather was asked if he thought that
he’d be around for his 104th. “I certainly do,” he replied. “Statistics show
that very few people die between the ages of 103 and 104.”

One of the shortest wills ever written;

Being of sound mind, I spent all the money.

So, the well-known aphorism does seem quite true that ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Studies and research have proven the health benefits of laughing and maintaining a sense of humor in aging adults:

Humor is good for the brain
Humor reduces stress
Humor makes you feel good
Humor has clinical several benefits

The best testimony for the significant value of laughter and humor to the elderly can best be summed up by seniors themselves; when asked to describe what constitutes successful aging, elderly people mention a sense of humor as one of the most important virtues!

Submitted to HealthLocal by Brian Porter, Director and Owner of Living Assistance Services (LAS) in the Regions of York, Simcoe and Georgina.
For advice about seniors and care at home, please kindly contact Brian Porter, Director and Owner of Living Assistance Services (LAS) in the Regions of York, Simcoe and Georgina, at 416.483.0070 (office), 905.758.2486 (cell) or and visit
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