It’s not realistic to expect Grandma or Poppy to suddenly start pranking the grandkids by putting Cajun spices on their oatmeal instead of cinnamon to get a few laughs in. But you should still keep your elderly loved one’s sense of humor intact, as having an active silly side can have a positive impact on their energy and focus.
In past scientific studies, humor has been named as a factor that can moderate or counteract the effects of mental depletion. A recent study conducted by two Australian professors suggests that exposure to humorous stimuli helps people persevere in focusing on completing tedious tasks. Across two studies, these Down Under professors found that people who watched a funny video clip before a task spent approximately twice as long on a tiresome task compared with people who watched neutral or positive (but not funny) videos. Meaning, the funny mental break enabled them to focus and hang in there on something arduous.
Prior research has found that humor can help facilitate recovery from stressful situations or even prolong people’s tolerance for physical pain. In the business world, many successful corporate giants such as Pixar and Google deliberately build play areas (think ping pong tables, chalk boards, game areas) into their workspaces and organize fun events to eradicate the stressful nature of work, boost morale, and increase productivity. Even small businesses get in on the fun: one mid-sized advertising agency in Portland, ME has spontaneous dance parties.
The Australian professors gleefully conclude that humor doesn’t distract from accomplishing task goals, rather makes them more enjoyable and makes people feel energized. Other perks of humor for the golden years: it can help relieve stress and facilitate social relationships. With this in mind, let’s empower our beloved seniors to laugh more at home by cozying up with a funny read or watching a funny series. Here’s some current inspiration (this will also help seniors feel with-it and relevant):