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HUMOR AND AGING. by Don L. F. Nilsen And Alleen Pace Nilsen. The Effects of Aging Peugeot: Before and After. An Old Tree. Three More Old Trees. Old Car and Old Tree. “Senior Moments”. Old Age and Death Are Serious Dilemmas.

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Presentation Transcript
humor and aging


by Don L. F. Nilsen

And Alleen Pace Nilsen

old age and death are serious dilemmas
Old Age and Death Are Serious Dilemmas
  • The search for eternal life is a popular theme even in children’s books, e.g.
  • Rick Riordan’s Percy and the Olympians
  • J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books
  • Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books
  • Most religions promise an afterlife, a resurrection, or reincarnation.
  • Think of all the stories about Heaven and Hell and about ghosts and the undead.
  • Also what euphemisms do we use in place of “old”?
the young don t always win
  • A young college kid in a sports car whips into a parking lot and sees an older man trying to maneuver his car into the only space available. The college kid deftly slips his little car around the bulky Cadillac and into the space. He jumps out of his car and says,
  • “See what you can do it you’re young and quick?”
By now the older gentleman has his car in position to drive into the space, so he puts his Cadillac in gear and crunches forward to the sounds of breaking glass and metal. He climbs out of his newly parked car and says,
  • “See what you can do if you’re old and rich!”
General Douglas MacArthur’s response to being fired by President Truman was “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
  • Old teachers never die; they just lose their principles.
  • Old athletes never die; they just lose their supporters.
  • Old robbers never die; they just steal away.
  • Old editors never quit; they just write away.
  • Old blondes never fade; they just dye away.
  • Old deans never die; they just lose their faculties.

In his 1988 Too Funny to Be President, Mo Udall defended humor as necessary to the health of our political discourse and our private lives. It…

  • Leavens the public dialogue.
  • Invigorates the body politic.
  • Uplifts the spirit.
  • Brings a diverse society closer together.
  • Helps individuals roll with the punches.
  • Is an antidote to self-importance.
author max shulman s rule
Author Max Shulman’s Rule:
  • Max Shulman, the author of The Lives of Doby Gillis and Barefoot Boy with Cheek, said that if he told a joke that made listeners say, “Ah ha, I know someone like that,” he would get a laugh.
  • But if he told a joke that made listeners say, “Oh no, that’s me!” he would not get a laugh.
  • How does this work in relation to our own telling of “old people” jokes?
humor and the aging process
  • Psychologist Lucille Nahemow suggests that humor is a vital part of the aging process, because it can change our perspectives.
  • For example, there is a proverb that reads,
  • “An old maid who gets married becomes a young wife.”
another example of a different perspective
  • The doctor of an 83-year-old woman says to her, “There are some things not even modern medicine can cure. You know, I can’t make you any younger.”
  • “Who asked you to make me younger?” she replied. “I want you to make me older!”
still another perspective
  • A doctor tells an 80-year-old man, “You’re in excellent health; you’ll live ‘till you’re 80!”
  • “I’m already 80,” says the man.
  • “See, what did I tell you!” exclaimed the doctor.
light switch in a doctor s office
Light Switch in a Doctor’s Office

One of the important features of humor is sudden insight.

Does this work for you?

gerontology web sites
Gerontology Web Sites:

Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder:

Do you remember these? (Statler Brothers):

The Fifties:

The Great Flydini (Steve Martin on the Johnny Carson Show):


Lookin’ for my wallet and my car keys:

Mary Maxwell’s Deadpan Prayer:

Music for Old People:

My Blackberry’s not working:

Reagan-Mondale Debate: The Age Issue: