Laughter and Dancing May Be The Best Medicines

Doctors may not write prescriptions for laughing and dancing, but the results of two unique therapy programs suggest that these activities could be the best medicine when it comes to improving nursing home residents’ mental health. The first program, known as “humor therapy,” got residents of Australian nursing homes laughing on a regular basis by incorporating humor into daily care routines and hosting weekly comedic performances. The chuckles paid off – residents who completed the 12-week program were determined to be happier and less anxious. The second program used “dance therapy” to engage depressed seniors who were living at a skilled nursing home in the Czech Republic. Participants attended classes on dances that were popular in their youth, such as the waltz, foxtrot, can-can and more. Those who completed the three-month program showed significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, suggesting that dancing is more than just a good physical workout. Hana Vankova, lead researcher in the Czech dance therapy program, explained, “Dance therapy is not only about physical performance, but rather social interaction, with strong emotional aspects. Familiar movements accompanied by music that elderly participants used to listen to while they were young might also provide a unique contribution.”

This article originally appeared on, a monthly magazine for long term and post-acute care professionals published by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. It was then published by Care Conversations, a program that helps families talk about health, aging and long-term care plans. For more information like this, visit