The world’s 65-and-older population is projected to triple by mid-century, from 516 million in 2009 to 1.53 billion in 2050. In the U.S. alone, seniors may increase by 40% in five years which means spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will also rise sharply. This alarming growth in senior population, coupled with rising stress, paucity of time and emotional wearing down has led to the crumbling of social and family structures to a large extent, leaving a much larger population of senior citizens longing for emotional comfort and solace. Seniors, particularly in the west, find themselves alone either in aged care facilities or old-age homes where they hardly laugh and smile. Though they live with likewise people and there is a community feeling; they still yearn for their family. They are prone to frequent bouts of depression that often leads to a debilitating condition. All they need is to talk to someone, and friends to share their emotions. I believe laughter can provide them with the much-needed sense of fellowship, and connect with people.
Faced with age and age related troubles, seniors find that their physical and mental faculties decrease. As far as laughter goes one finds that as we grow older our capacity to understand humor decreases because of senile dementia, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The degeneration of the brain cells makes it difficult for many seniors to understand and organize facts, let alone humor. Simple tasks become difficult and frustration levels rise. Since humor is an intellectual phenomenon, seniors find it difficult to laugh at any humorous intervention which needs cognitive abilities. This is where Laughter Yoga helps them to be able to laugh without any reason using laughter primarily as an exercise. Being a physically oriented process, Laughter Yoga does not require any mental abilities thus helping the older people to comprehend humor without using their mental faculties.
Seniors face reduced immunity compounded by depression and isolation. Although not all diseases can be cured, laughter brings several positive changes. It reduces the risk factors for cardiac diseases, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and alleviates pains and aches due to different types of arthritis. Due to lack of proper breathing, seniors don’t get much oxygen which is the root cause of many ailments. Laughter provides exercise to the lungs and circulatory system, to push the heart rate up to a level comparable to any aerobic exercise. It is excellent for the elderly as they cannot walk and do much physical exercise because of weak muscles and arthritic problems.
Laughter exercises can help older people to keep their spirits high, and help them come out of depression. In India, a majority of Laughter Club members are over the age of 50-60 years and they have significantly benefited from regular practice of laughter exercises. In addition to physical exercise, these clubs have helped them to find much-needed social support and are very good for their physical, mental and emotional well-being.