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Seniors find laughter really is best medicine

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Stacy Vogel
May 20, 2008
— Char Horn walked in on a bewildering scene at The Gathering Place on Monday morning.

A dozen senior citizens waddled around the room, led by Gathering Place Director Paula Schutt and special guest Christina Crall-Reed. They clacked and clucked in imitation of penguin laughter (whatever that sounds like).


“I feel like a nut,” one lady said.


Schutt could barely stand up for laughing.


“What kind of a group is this?” Horn asked in a shocked voice.


That would be the Positive Attitude Club, a new group meeting once a month at Milton’s senior center.


“America in general has a negative attitude about aging,” Schutt said. “I have a very positive attitude, and I wanted to be able to bring happiness to The Gathering Place and share it.”


Monday was the club’s best meeting yet, Schutt said. Crall-Reed, a writer and “certified laugh leader” with the World Laughter Tour, talked to members about the healing power of laughter.


It’s a topic Crall-Reed knows all too well. The Milton resident has survived cancer and has twice been struck by lightning.


She uses humor and laughter to recognize the joy in her life instead of letting the bad things overwhelm her, she said.


“I don’t take life too seriously,” she told the seniors. “I’ve been in some ugly places, but I’ve been in more beautiful places.”


Laughter—even if it’s faked—improves health and strengthens muscles, Crall-Reed said. She taught the seniors gentle exercises from the World Laughter Tour such as “fish-face,” “hibernation laugh” and “Aloha-ha.”


“Ho, ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha! Hee, hee, hee!” the seniors shouted, working their diaphragms, lungs and abdomens.


“If there’s no one in your house to share your laughter with, share it with yourself,” Crall-Reed told them. “Our bodies do not know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter.”


Monday, the fake laughter invariably led to the real thing.


Schutt would like the Positive Attitude Club to continue with its laughter exercises, she said. She’s also hoping to line up more speakers and activities for future meetings.


“I’m always open to people who have wonderful things to share,” she said.


If you go

The Positive Attitude Club normally meets at 9 a.m. the fourth Monday of the month at The Gathering Place, 715 Campus St., Milton. (It met the third Monday this month because of Memorial Day.)


For more information, call (608) 868-3500.


Benefits of laughter

According to the World Laughter Tour, some of the medical benefits of laughter are:


-- Increased antibodies in saliva that fight upper respiratory infections.


-- Help canceling out the harmful effects of stress.


-- Secretion of an enzyme that prevents the stomach from forming ulcers.


-- Conditioning of the abdominal muscles.


-- Relaxation of muscles throughout the body.


-- Help reducing symptoms of neuralgia and rheumatism.


-- Changes in your perspective.


-- Improvement in ventilation.


-- Reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.


-- Help for the body in fighting infection.


-- Release of endorphins that provide natural pain relief.


-- Help moving nutrients and oxygen to body tissues.



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