When Sandy Moehle received a birthday card that read: "Old age ain't for
sissies," the sentiment summed up her feelings about dealing with the physical and mental challenges of aging. It also made her laugh.
"I'm going to put the saying up in my office," says Moehle, 57, program
manager for addiction recovery services at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn. "Some parts of getting older are a real pain, but seeing the humor in them makes the process easier to deal with."
Remember the old saying, "Laughter is the best medicine?" Well, it turns out there might be some truth to that...a growing number of Websites, book and audiotapes explores the connection between positive aging and humor.
StevenM. Sultanoff, a California clinical psychologist, and past president of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor and a self-labeled
"mirthologist," says the benefits of laughter are no joke.
Learning to enjoy the ups...and downs...of life reduces stress, provides perspective, improves communication, energizes, enhances relationships and generally makes people feel better. "Studies show humor may be dangerous to your illness," writes Sultanoff, who maintains the website:
www.humormatters.com, which includes an extensive section devoted to age-related humor.
"Research has clearly indicated that negaive thinking and emotional distress lead to disease. Humor changes negative thinking and emotional distress and therefore can be a powerful health intervention," he says.
Research, though limited, indicates that laughing enhances the immune system, reduces stess and increases tolerance to pain. Humor also has proved to be a valuable tool for people facing serious illness and medical treatment.
"Forget about the 'it only hurts with I laugh' concept," says author and humorist Loretta LaRoche. "The truth is it hurts more when you don't laugh."
LaRoche, a 62 year old grandmother of 11, achnowledges that while failing health, the loss of loved ones and other realities of aging aren't funny, a sense of humor is one of the best coping mechanisms around. "'Sure, aging is tough, but what's the alternative?" says LaRoche, who recently released an audiotape titled "Aging With Humor." "Find your inner sitcom and make your last act a comedy."
A new book could help. "Age Doesn't Matter Unless You're a Cheese: Wisdom From Our Elders," by Katherine and Ross Petras, is a collection of 350 notable quotes about getting older.
You won't find any stereo-typical "old geezer" humor here; every contributor was age 60 or older when he or she made the statements. Although some quotes are serious reflections on the aging process, many including the title (attributed to actress Billie Burke), are hilarious observations on the "golden years."
Some examples: "A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple every year. I told him, 'At my age, I don't even buy green bananas.'" Claude Pepper
"I have everything now I had 20 years ago, except now it's all lower." Gypsy Rose Lee
Carter Henderson, author of "Funny, I don't Feel Old: How To Flourish After 50," says older adults should focus less on the difficulties of aging and more on what makes them smile...and he works hard to follow his own advice.
For examples, six years ago, when Henderson, a former Wall Street Journal London bureau chief, got down on one knee at age 70 to propose to his now-wife, he says he wasn't sure what she would say...or if he would be able to get back up again. But, she said yes, and he got up.