My Dad is known as the jokester and the prankster at the Assisted Living community where he lives. He’ll do anything for a laugh, and I wonder if his shenanigans are just a way to mask something deeper that hurts him inside. I really don’t know if I should encourage or discourage this behavior, which can often be embarrassing and make him seem silly. -Darlene, Smithtown, NY
Is he hurting anyone? Are the jokes overtly at someone else’s expense? Are the other residents or staff complaining? Is this sense of humor something new and uncharacteristic — out of the ordinary? If the answers to these questions are all “no,” then, Darlene, really, what’s the problem? Your Dad’s desire to laugh and make others do the same is actually powerful medicine. Laughing not only gives the spirit a boost, it’s been shown to improve circulation. No joke.
More and more studies are revealing that the simple act of laughter has amazing therapeutic value*. Some research has indicated it can even boost immune systems, which is particularly important for seniors. Laughter is a vital stress-relieving tool, because when we laugh, the brain actually momentarily stops thinking, which can help reduce burdens and promote mental balance. And the best part about it, laughter is contagious. If he is laughing harmlessly and good-naturedly, chances are, others around him are joining in, and that’s a good thing.
And talk about powerful medicine: Laugher is free, has no side effects and you never have to worry about overdosing. Darlene, we all use laughter from time-to-time to help us cope with the issues in our lives. I’m sure that this is part of what is going on with your Dad; but joking, laughing and making light may just be his way of sorting it all out. And guess what: Modern science is on his side. Life is short, Darlene, and no one knows this better than your Dad. So, go ahead, let him have his fun… it just may extend his health.