Laughter the best medicine for Taoyuan veterans 天天起「笑」 榮民樂活

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 - Page 15


Since the beginning of August, residents at Taoyuan Veteran’s Home have been practicing laughter yoga, filling the once-lifeless place with the sound of laughter. A month of laughter therapy has produced an almost magical effect, with some veterans rediscovering their youthful vitality.

Located in Taoyaun County’s Bade City, the home looks after over 700 veterans. Their average age is 83.3 years old, and five residents are over 100. Teng Hai-chiang, the home’s manager, said that when people get old, it’s hard to avoid getting sick, and some of the residents are plagued by numerous maladies. Some residents think they’ve lived long enough and don’t want to move around, while others are just waiting for the end to come.

But since August, at exactly 8.30am every weekday morning, over 40 residents from Taoyuan Veteran’s Home have started laughing. For 30 minutes, they follow their laughter leader as they practice a kind of “laughter qigong” in time to music. As soon as they start laughing, the weighty feeling of old age that hangs over the home suddenly evaporates, and the long in the tooth suddenly feel young at heart.

Teng said that laughter has many health benefits. There’s nothing to learn, no equipment is needed, plus it’s safe and relaxed, making laughter therapy one of the best forms of aerobic exercise for the elderly. Shortly after joining the home earlier this year, Teng learned that John Chen, a laughter yoga practitioner who introduced the activity to Taiwan, happened to be a Bade local. He therefore invited Chen to become the home’s “laughter commander,” which is how the country’s first government-run laughter club was established.

A lot of the veterans say that laughing every day has improved their sleep, made them more positive, given them more patience with friends and improved their temper. In some cases, it has even cured depression brought on by amputation or disease.

The laughter yoga sessions are open to the public, and a talent show featuring laughter yoga will be held at the home on Oct. 27 and 28.(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY TAIJING WU)