On a recent Tuesday morning, plain silliness and hearty laughter filled The Orchards at Southington Community Room and spilled over into the hall, beckoning several curious people to peek in to see what exactly was going on.
“Pretend you are using ‘laughter shampoo’ and lather up those suds,” said LeaAnn Blanchard, resident services coordinator at the independent and assisted-living community at 34 Hobart St. in Southington.
The 12 residents — gathered around her in a semicircle — were soon massaging the imaginary “bubbles” in their hair and laughing loudly as they imagined the sensation. The peals of gaiety continued through nearly 10 more “exercises” as she encouraged the group to pretend their feet were stuck in glue – prompting great belly laughs.
The levity was all part of Laughter Yoga also known as Laughter with LeaAnn, which Blanchard leads at The Orchards and several area senior centers. Each program begins with a background on the benefits of laughter and how it is being effectively used around the world.
The program is more than just fun – laughter also has physical and mental benefits such as boosting the immune system, relieving aches and pains and burning calories while reducing stress, worry and negative emotions. The end result is a change in perspective of life, improvement in mood and greater socialization.
Blanchard, who joined The Orchards staff in December 2016, said she came upon information about the benefits of laughter and thought it would be perfect for the residents. “We want everyone to enjoy life to the best of their abilities. Everyone can laugh – and we all need to laugh more,” she said. “It’s a great way to start the day. The goal is that they leave feeling better than when they arrived.”
“I’m going to be laughing the whole day now,” said one resident when the 45-minute session ended.
“Laughter is the best medicine,” Blanchard said, quoting the familiar adage. “And it’s free.”
The Orchards at Southington, which offers independent and assisted living, is a not-for-profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services. For more information about The Orchards at Southington, click here.