A Daily Dose of Laughter

Community Article

By Anne Smyth ©Dementia Care International

A very big thank you to Anne Smyth, a Diversional Therapist at the Seventh Day Adventist Retirement Village in beautiful bayside Victoria Point in Queensland. Anne sent us the following delightful idea. 

A daily dose of laughter is part and parcel of our Sunshine Club program.

Each day we begin by greeting one another with a warm smile. By the time the smiles have reached everyone, all can experience the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We follow this by reciting the  poem ‘There is sunshine in a smile’ by Helen Steiner Rice.

After the poem, we remind ourselves about the importance of laughter in our lives; and then, spontaneously and simultaneously, we always seem to chorus:

Laugh and the world laughs with you,

weep and you weep alone.’

and

‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ 

Then I like to add, ‘Do you know that there is scientific proof that laughter improves our immune system; speeds up heart rate;, accelerates blood circulation; and increases oxygen consumption? I think that’s enough reason for a good hearty laugh, don’t you agree? How about we fill this room with the sound of laughter? One, two, three… let’s begin ha ha ha ha…………………and so it starts. 

One of our Sunshine Club members has such a hearty laugh. As soon as I say, ‘Let’s begin,’ she usually says, ‘Do you really want to hear it?’ The sound of her laughter is so infectious that we all join in; it is really quite impossible not to and even our slow starters soon join in too. Incidentally, this member is not the only one with a memorable laugh because some of the other club members like to laugh like kookaburras.

Following our ‘laughter medicine’ we each pick a joke or riddle from our really big box of jokes and read them out one-by-one. Jokes like, ‘Why is tennis such a noisy game?’ If no one guesses the answer, the reader reads it out, ‘Because every player raises a racket!’ As soon as the answer is read, we all laugh, ‘Ha ha ha.’ 

Then the next person reads out their joke and this continues in turn until every member has picked and read a joke. No one ever likes to miss out.

I have found dispensing this daily dose of laughter is a top way to start my Sunshine Clubs because the participation is great and the rest of the morning just seems to flow. At the end of the program, I hear comments such as: ‘I had a good time; It was a fun morning; We had a lovely time, didn’t we?; It was quite a pleasant morning etc.’ 

Of course, by the time residents reach the dining room, if someone asks, ‘What did you do this morning’? often the answer is: ‘I can’t remember.’ But does it really matter whether my Sunshine Club members remember or not?

You see, we care givers are certain of the joy and the pleasure and happiness expressed. We see the exchange of smiles, and hear the laughter. We are able to report that residents who have become withdrawn and non-communicative find they are once again able to enjoy social interactions through laughter.

Above all, I can say with confidence that our daily dose of laughter enriches the atmosphere. It spills out joy and happiness. The improvements in interpersonal interactions, efforts at communication and socialisation are almost tangible. These create a flow-on effect, generating a sense of well-being not only for individual residents, but also between group members, and for staff and visitors.

A note from Jane.

To smile and to laugh are among the first things we learn in life and among the last abilities we lose. We know today that we ‘unlearn’ memory and abilities in opposite order to how we learned them. This is another good reason for incorporating Anne’s way of using laughter everyday in your Sunshine Clubs.