I was invited to present Laughter Yoga to a group of seniors at an assisted living center this week, something I have not done since leaving Alice Lorraine Care Center, the elderly care facility I founded in 1994 and named after my own grandmother, more than one year ago. Seniors were my business for many, many years, but Wednesday, I realized, although laughter is very necessary, I am not as young as I used to be. I left the Center so exhausted; I literally fell asleep while driving on my way home! They really pooped me out….but we had a good session!
When working with the elderly, one must remember that although they might not understand or even appreciate humor, they still LOVE to laugh…and for the most part, they will laugh for absolutely NO reason, if you laugh! You smile at them, they smile back at you; you laugh, they laugh; you sing, they sing. One lady told me I should be careful, because “they” ignore people with white hair – I told her mine was dyed, so I should not have any problems and she thought that was hysterically funny!
Of course, when I had my own facility, I laughed with my residents, as well as my staff, on a daily basis and pretty much gave up the idea of laughing in a group, because the majority were so low functioning, they were unable to either hear or understand; however, this group was functioning at bit higher level. I have been opposed to wearing hats, costumes, etc, but after my experience with them, I must re-think that stance. Although I remain opposed to “hat sharing” amongst the residents, I do think a colorful, not-too-wild, costume would be a plus for the laughter facilitator. Not only would the resident be more visually stimulated, but it would also make it much easier (at least for me!) to get into the exaggerated, slightly wacky mood that would enable a sillier than usual attitude, necessary to keep their attention and keep the facilitator “up”.
Laughing with the elderly requires a lot of individual attention, but otherwise, it is doing what one always has done with teasing, nonsense, and clowning, but in an even more exaggerated way….and it wore this senior out. Next time I will “dress” for the affair and go with the flow!
Attached is a video I made of the last HaHaHalloween I spent with the residents of my facility….gotta say, they loved the hats and I loved seeing them light up when they were all decked out!