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The Three Stooges on stage at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1962

Why is Laughing So Much Fun?

I am easily amused. My favorite past time is laughing. I married a man with a hilarious sense of humor, which runs full tilt on a daily basis. He struggles to be serious because he sees the funny side of everything in life.

To any Seinfeld fan, you will know what I mean when I say pretty much every scenario in life can be and has been a “Seinfeld episode.”

My husband knows every great line of most comedy movies/shows produced. He can and does interject these lines into everyday conversations. He needs no audience. He simply can crack himself up.

So of what use is this skill? Now that we are aging, we want to be able to take advantage of whatever arsenal is out there to enjoy our senior years.

The beauty of laughter is that it is universal.

There definitely are cultural differences in what strikes us as humorous. I grew up in Canada and Canadians are known for being funny. We have given the world many genius comics. We are particularly good at self-deprecation.

In my household, humor was revered by my father, especially slapstick. I relished in watching any cartoon, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, etc. with him because he so enjoyed it. His laughter was contagious. I loved just watching what so heartily made him laugh.

I never knew my father was funny until I met my husband who upon spending time with my father declared, “That man is hilarious. Don’t you see that?”

I had not realized how special his sense of humor really was because I was not aware other dads did not necessarily laugh so readily.

I shared a love of bathroom humor with my mother. That could be embarrassing to admit but to this day I still find it so infectiously funny that I have no room for embarrassment.

Most cards I sent my mother for whatever occasion dictated a card, were centered on the theme of flatulence. I still own the collection we amassed over the years. They are just as funny to me today as the day I bought them.

As a nine-year-old child, I actually saw the Three Stooges perform at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1962 – “The Grandstand Matinee Fun-Fest.” (Tickets were .50 cents for children and $1.50 for adults). It is still impressive to my husband that I saw The Stooges in person. They were on my list of heroes at that young age. The entire day is vivid in my mind. I can tell you exactly what I was wearing (a dress!), and what I spent my allowance on at the Ex (Mexican Jumping Beans, and a beanie with “Exhibition” embroidered in the front except that it was misspelled Exibition which made it even funnier).

What we know about laughter is that it can provide a release of stress, a relaxation for the entire body. Laughing triggers the release of the drug-like neurochemical endorphin, which can reduce the perception of physical pain.

Researchers at College of William & Mary have found that “a wave of electricity sweeps through the entire cerebral cortex (the whole brain) just before we laugh – this supports the theory that humor can actually help improve cognitive functioning by activating all parts of the brain simultaneously.”

Laughing is tied to having a positive outlook. Optimism has been linked to improved resiliency and the ability to cope.

Laughter can be a powerful medicine for chronic conditions we face as our bodies age.

Laughter may benefit us most because it often brings people together in a positive emotional climate, stimulating a social connection. It is contagious. The frequency of laughter depends on how much time an individual spends interacting with others.

I love how laughter has helped balance the difficult side of the human condition. When you can find things in life silly, you more easily can celebrate life in general. We can preserve our own sanity by laughing at our own silliness.

I know our humor will probably change as we continue to age. If memory fades, it might be more challenging to know where the humor is or to understand it.

“As you age, even if laughing is the last thing you feel like doing, life still begs you not to give up on humor. Irony and parody and puns and all sorts of wit are lying in wait to amuse us, divert us, drive away our demons, heal us, and make our days happier.” (www.abbeycaskets.com).

I hope I have inherited a sustaining sense of humor that I saw in my parents. My humor will carry me through my old age more comfortably if I should have this good fortune.

Everyone can make it a goal to increase the number of times one laughs in a day. It simply is good for the soul.

“There is honestly nothing better than when you’re full on laughing with someone and you both keep on adding things in which makes it funnier and you can barely breathe.” – @sarcasm_ only

Speaking of humor and laughter, North Shore Elder Services has an entire evening devoted to the cause. A Night of Laughs Comedy Revue opens at the Northeast Arc’s new ArcWorks Community Center at the Black Box Theater, 22 Foster Street, Peabody, on Friday, September 14. Reception starts at 6pm and the show begins at 7:30pm. Come enjoy some of Boston’s best comics while supporting North Shore Elder Services and the community work we do. Tickets are available at www.nselder.org/event/laughs and a limited number will be available at the theater doors that evening.

You will get more than your expected number of laughs in for the day!

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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