Posted by: Colin Wiles18/04/2012
The UK is getting older. By 2035 the number of people aged 85 and over will hit 3.6 million, two and a half times the number in 2010. By that date 23 percent of us will be over 65. This has massive implications for pensions and the amount of resources that will be available to support elderly people in their homes. Basically, we will need to provide more and better housing and health care with fewer resources.
One tool that can be used in the battle to reduce health and care costs and keep the elderly young at heart is …comedy. Yes, comedy. There is plenty of evidence to show that laughter reduces pain because it releases chemicals that act as a natural painkiller. Laughter also produces psychological and physiological effects on the body that are comparable to the health benefits of aerobic exercise. A good belly laugh can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. In short, a laugh a day keeps the doctor away.
Groups like Silver Comedy have responded to these findings by offering bespoke comedy packages to housing providers. In this project, reported in The Guardian, they arranged for “The Queen” to visit a dementia day care centre in Brent. Her visit went down a storm. I should declare an interest, because I have known one of Silver Comedy’s Directors George Baddeley for years, but I think they may be on to something. As our population ages, giving elderly residents a good laugh may be a cost effective way of increasing the sum of human happiness in sheltered and extra care schemes, and may help to save on care and medical bills in the longer run. Comedy sessions also bring people together in a really positive way. Sharing laughter and mutual enjoyment can help to counteract loneliness - and loneliness is a big problem for older people. We all know that old age has the potential to be a dispiriting and painful experience. But the ability to face ageing and our eventual death with a laugh and a chuckle (“Always Look on the Bright side of Life”) is something we should all aim for.
From Inside out
An independent look at the housing sector and beyond from Colin Wiles