With a distinct rise in life expectancy due to advances in medical science, the population of senior citizens is likely to triple by the year 2020. As the joint family structure crumbles and youngsters steer away from parents, the seniors, particularly in the West, find themselves alone either in aged care facilities or old-age homes. They are prone to frequent bouts of depression that often leads to a debilitating condition.
Laughter Yoga – the Best Medicine
Laughter Yoga is indeed the best medicine to be prescribed for seniors to keep them in good cheer. A good Hearty Laughter gets rid of stress, worry and depression. It touches the emotional core and alleviates feelings of loneliness and isolation. Besides being the panacea for good health, laughter generates positive thoughts and reduces the negative strains.
Hundreds and thousands have benefited by Laughter Yoga, a great therapeutic alternative that combines Laughter Exercises with Yogic Deep Breathing, for a complete workout of wellness. Elderly people suffer from a variety of diseases due to their reduced immunity, and a life long of unhealthy habits. Although not all diseases can be cured, laughter brings several positive changes. It is an instant stress buster, which helps to reduce the risk factors for cardiac diseases arising due to stress. Laughter helps to reduce blood pressure and lowers cholesterol levels.
Factors Affecting Seniors and How Laughter Yoga Helps
Retirement: The biggest stressor for seniors is a feeling of being 'useless' after retirement. It leads to major depression and mental agony. Lack of importance creates frustration and many a times proves extremely detrimental to physical and mental health. Extended Hearty Laughter helps to reduce stress and generate a positive attitude. Laughing together in a group helps to boost self-esteem and overcome feelings of insecurity.
Lack of Bonding: Laughter Yoga is especially beneficial for older people. Seniors are always in need of human contact. While most of them are surrounded by like minded peers, they still miss the bonding of a family. They need someone close with whom they can share their emotions.
Laughter Yoga sessions have the power to reach beyond the healing of laughter. The effective network of caring-sharing relationships is the key to a happy and healthy life. Relationships with people become very strong and the feeling of loneliness dissipates. Seniors enjoy the daily meetings as it generates a sense of belonging. Laughter Yoga can give seniors that much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity.
Physical immobility: Sedentary lifestyle, illness and lack of physical exercise cause stiffness of limbs and muscles, leads to immobility and pain and aches. Laughter Exercises coupled with deep diaphragmatic breathing are simple, structured and a lot of fun. They are easy, safe, and economical and provide a genuine form of physical exercise. Regardless of any limitations – cognitive or physical, they are appropriate for all. Extended Hearty Laughter is known to increase muscle movement, mobility and boost the immune system. It increases disease fighting cells and proteins, and triggers release of endorphins (body's natural painkillers)
Decline of cognitive faculties: Faced with age and age-related troubles, seniors find that their physical and mental faculties decrease. With the beginning of certain diseases like Alzheimer's and Senile Dementia, the capacity to comprehend humor declines. The degeneration of the brain cells makes it difficult for many seniors to understand and organize facts, let alone humor. Simple tasks become difficult, frustration levels rise making it harder for them to laugh.
Under such conditions Laughter Yoga is ideal for seniors to reap the scientifically proved benefits of laughter to improve their health and well-being. It helps to provide an emotional bonding and is one of the most powerful tools against depression.
Since humor is an intellectual phenomenon, seniors find it difficult to laugh without a reason. This is where Laughter Yoga helps them to be able to laugh and start living a life full of joy once again. Being a physical process, it does not require any mental abilities thus helping the older people to understand humor without using their cognitive faculties. A few hours of laughter every day will increase your memory, thinking ability and intellectual capacity.
Physical illness: Scientific studies have proven that the reason of frequent sickness is because there is a lack of oxygen in the body cells. Laughter Exercises and Deep Breathing help to attain good health by increasing the supply of oxygen. People in the Laughter Clubs with chronic pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found attacks to become less frequent, and in some cases, to disappear completely. Many members with high blood pressure, severe spinal, neck or shoulder problems and even diabetes have found their life normalizing eventually requiring no medication. Many members 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.
Social Laughter Clubs – A Boon for the Elderly
The simple fact is that, for humans to be happy, we need a network of healthy emotional relationships with a group of people who care about us and about whom we care. Social Laughter Clubs have the power to reach beyond the healing of laughter. The effective network of caring-sharing relationships is the key to a happy and healthy life. Relationships with people with whom one laughs with regularly becomes very strong.
Happiness through Emotional Networking
Sadly, for many elderly people, modern life does not include a network of caring and sharing relationships --- The lack of two-way emotional dialogue and relationship leaves them without emotional grounding, often resulting in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The amount of time spent with others is not what matters; it is the quality of interaction that is important. If there is lack of warmth and friendliness, it leads to anxiety and stress among the elderly. To facilitate better physical and mental health, Laughter Clubs provide a rich social network of people who care about one another, and perhaps even more importantly, a way of getting to know new people who we care about. This provides a sense of emotional security which resists stress and depression – the number one sickness in seniors.
The session with seniors is not just about laughter. It entails creating a connection with them, building a rapport by talking, listening and physical touch. A smile goes a long way to establish a bond with seniors who are in need of care and empathy. It creates an ambience of belonging and generates the much needed feeling of closeness and fraternity. Laughter sessions help them to share similar interests and instill familiarity and intimacy. It gives them the opportunity to confide their emotions and express themselves freely.
Laughter Yoga exercises are simple, structured and entertaining. They are easy and safe, and provide a genuine form of physical exercise. They appropriate for all, regardless of their cognitive, sensorial or motor abilities/limitations. People's participation is invited and not imposed. Laughter Yoga appears to lift depression and replace it with a positive outlook. Health improves, many chronic ailments disappear, the exercise improves mobility, communication and relations also improve.