“When you laugh, it’s an involuntary explosion of the lungs. The lungs need to replenish themselves with oxygen. So you laugh, you breathe, the blood runs, and everything is circulating. If you don’t laugh, you’ll die.” — Mel Brooks
Humor may not cure aging, but it definitely smooths some of the rough edges. And adds years to our longevity, too, you can reasonably extrapolate from research which shows those of us with a healthy, positive perception of aging live longer.
LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF
Sacramento-based artist Eric Decetis literally wrote the book on having a sense of humor about aging. Its titled Old Farts. And then there’s the worldwide distribution of his popular single-panel cartoons, greeting cards, calendars, clothing and more — all of which offer a take-no-prisoners view of the fears, anxieties and foibles of older people.
Amazingly, for Decetis and his legion of fans, after nearly four decades of cartooning, his irreverent outlook never gets old.
“I know of no other cartoonist who possesses Eric’s command of anatomy combined with a sense of humor that should probably be registered as a lethal weapon,” wrote New Yorker cartoonist Tom Cheney. “I can promise that you’ll never walk again through a crowd without seeing one of his characters in the flesh (fully clothed I hope.) … Mr. Decetis has brought us a powerful message … that even during our prettiest, coolest, and noblest moments we are, each and every one of us, just another ass in the crowd.”
INTERVIEW: ERIC DECETIS “MAKES FUN” OF OLD AGE
HUMBLE SKY: Why old people as a theme for your cartoons?
ERIC DECETIS: My themes overall vary quite a bit depending on the publisher, but I would say that a good percentage deal with the elderly. I license my images worldwide for (mainly) greeting cards, calendars, books, clothing and a variety of other print products. As boomers such as myself “mature,” I think we find aging very relatable, which humor writing is based upon. And … they are my sales demographics. So, not only is it a topic that I can personally relate to, it’s good business sense.
HS: Is there anything that’s off limits; or a challenging subject you have yet to crack?
ED: I’ve touched on a myriad of topics in my nearly 40-year career of humor writing and professional cartooning. As my work spans the globe I focus on general humor that relates to virtually all cultures (I’ve even had my greeting cards translated to Cyrillic for Russian audiences). As such, I steer clear of religion and politics. I choose to focus on more sophomoric themes that have the potential to appeal to most all audiences.
HS: Do you find having a sense of humor about aging comes easier or harder as you get older yourself?
ED: As I eluded to earlier there is no question that my personal aging provides insight to my own special blend of humor. In my industry I observe and comment. And I can’t help but notice my own elevating belt height, accompanied by my decreasing stature, and a bald spot (which I affectionately refer to as my “landing zone”) as it grows to the size of a salad plate.
HS: Did you draw influence or inspiration from your mom’s aging experience?
ED: From my earliest years my dad had a very dry sense of humor and my ma was hilarious — not sure if my sense of humor was genetic or acquired, but I have to attribute it mainly to my mother. Even in her later years as her health declined she had a brilliant wit and kept me and the other residents and staff in stitches (no pun intended although she had her fair share from falls). During her 10-year stay at Eskaton [the Northern California continuing care retirement community] I spent quite a bit of time with her and around the other residents. I remember when she first moved in an elderly gentleman asked me to help him with his telephone as he couldn’t get a dial tone. When we went into his room he opened his nightstand and attempted to dial out on his clock. My experiences with my own mother and the other residents during her time there was invaluable on so many levels. I will always be grateful for that.
HS: Do you consider it healthy to have a sense of humor about aging — that “laughter is the best medicine”?
ED: I sincerely believe it’s the best medicine regardless of age. I have never taken an art class and my degree from UC Davis is in Biology/Pre-Med. I was a respiratory therapist for five years at a local hospital back in the seventies. Resultantly I saw a tremendous amount of pain and sadness. But I was known throughout the hospital as the guy who brought a smile to patients and staff as well. I’ve always felt blessed to have this “gift” and I try to bring laughter to as many people as possible through my work today.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING! If we look at the positives in aging and find the humor even in the not so positive things, we will perceive aging in a more positive light. Finding the humor in life is fundamental in not taking all situations too seriously, and finding the good within the bad.
Stuart Greenbaum says
Thanks Allyssa, for the insightful and validating comment. I will share with Eric DeCetis. — Stuart
From my personal life and encounters, my Grandfather used to live in a retirement home and had a lot of friends within his community. He made everyone happy and really brightened up the community that he lived within. Everyone always attributed it to the fact that he was social and made a lot of jokes and made everyone laugh. He poked fun at everyone and knew how to get his audience smile. When he passed, the dynamic was different within the community, and a lot of his close friends passed not even a few months later. We always think that the reason that happened, and how the dynamic changed was because of my Grandfather’s sense of humor.
From my class, this touches on a lot of key concepts that have been discussed. One very recent concept we studied was “dying a good death”, and I think that this is an important part of it. Dying a good death means dying as comfortably as possible, surrounded by loved ones, in the comfort of your own home, and not attached to machines. Part of being surrounded by loved ones includes being happy and being able to laugh. Another concept discussed in our class was socialization of the aging population. A lot of the aging population is not social which can cause depression, or even worse, dementia. This can be attributed to not enough activities presented which leads to less and less social interactions. Being less social could potentially lead to years off an individual’s life or the development of dementia. Having a good laugh is an essential part of being part of a group dynamic. If an individual is laughing they are having a good time with the people they are around. So having a good laugh can add years to ones life, can cure depression, prevent alzimers, and help one die a “good death”.
Hello, I am a student in AGNG 320 student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Erickson School of Aging. I completely agree with your blog post for so many reasons! First and foremost, I have been around the aging population for a while now and have seen the positive impact of humor in the older adults life. Second, there are many concepts that we have learned in our AGNG class that support your blog post.
**See post 2 for 2nd part of response***
This idea about humor and aging adults can be applied to some topics we have studied this semester. We have learned a lot about wellness and that there are many different pieces to a person’s wellness, including physical, intellectual, emotional and social (Haber, 2016, p. 54). Specifically relating to this topic of humor and aging adults are the emotional and social aspects of wellness. Emotional wellness entails expressing wide range of feelings and channeling positive energy. If a person is unable to feel happy, motivated, and have a positive outlook on their lives then they won’t be have good wellness. The humor aspect plays an important role in this because it allows for a more wide range of emotions as well as positive, bright energy associated with constant laughs. On the other hand, the first idea about social wellness is “laugh often” (Haber, 2016, p. 54). This means that if a person has a good sense of humor then they will be more well than not. All they have to do is see that they can’t help to age, and once they do then this humor will benefit them. This humor in older adults lays the foundation for multiple areas of wellness, which is crucial for good health as someone ages.
Haber, D. (2016). Health promotion and aging: Practical applications for health professionals. 7th edition. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company
I am an AGNG 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging. As I was scrolling through the blog posts looking for one to comment on, this one caught my attention. I thought the topic of the post was unique, and after reading it I couldn’t agree more with it. This reminds me of something my dad always tells me, “Make the most of everything.” Everyone will become old and there is no way of getting around it. We need to accept this and embrace it. If people do this and make the most of their age and have a good laugh every once in a while, they will be better off and even more healthy as they grow older. If someone is always miserable and negative about the fact that they are getting older, then it will be nearly impossible for them to make the most of their old age. This relates to the answer of the last interview question regarding having a sense of humor being healthy for older adults. Constant pain and sadness will not help anyone’s health or overall well-being. Having a good laugh and being in good moods is much better and healthier for an older person. Once adults understand this and that they can’t avoid growing old, they will be healthier and more positive.
***SEE NEXT POST FOR SECOND PARAGRAPH***
Edward Lee says
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I am a student enrolled in Aging 320 at the Erikson school of Aging. In highschool, my Spanish teacher was Mrs. Amatucci, an elderly woman who would have loved to read this blog. Mrs. Amatucci was very fond of humor, especially humor relating to older age, always reminding me that “If you can laugh at yourself, then no one can ever laugh at you.” Humor is a bridge that connects people, and helps reliever stresses tied to events. Tying humor into cartoon images depicting the troubles that our senior demographic encounters is a funny way to help them laugh at themselves. There is no need to fear old age, or worry that you will have to use the bathroom every twenty minutes, as we will all one day reach that point. Furthermore, laughter induces the release of dopamine and endorphins, two molecules that can stimulate positivity and happiness. These same molecules are stimulated by exercise, which we have learned has immense benefits both physically and mentally. So in short, I would agree with this post, specifically that laughter is the greatest medicine regardless of age.
Joyful Howard says
To add to my comment, I learn in my aging class that we should not be ageist. Instead, we should learn that aging is a good thing. we should get educated about what it means to age, instead of bashing our elders. All in all, based on educating myself about aging, I am all for adding humor to your life as you age.
Joyful Howard says
Hello, I am a student taking Aging 320, at Erickson school of Aging. I totally agree with the writer for this post. I think it is important to add humor while educating people about aging. It is important to laugh when something funny happens and not take life too serious. For example, I see when my grand-mom(she’s 81) wear her clothes outside down we remind her, she laughs about it and make jokes. she sometimes goes in to educate with a spice of humor by stating ” be laugh your time when reach when you get to my age.” she educate us by telling us that life is a journey and on that journey we have changes until the day we die. I believe that humor is the best medicine to enjoy your aging instead of crying and worrying. As we age, we should embrace the mental, physical, and emotional changes that comes with it in a fun way. If you hair is turning gray, do not feel sad about it. wear your gray hair out there and make joke that it represent that you have live a long and fun life on this earth, and that you are very knowledgeable. I am from Liberia (somewhere in west Africa), we see aging as a good thing and we respect our elders. If you live a long life, everyone wants to know what you are eating and what you are doing that is allowing you to still be alive. It is a blessing to age because not everyone gets to make it up to 50 and above.
I am a student taking AGNG 320, Erickson School of Aging. I couldn’t agree more with this blog. Humor is good for the mind, body, and soul, particularly as we age. The days that are filled with laughter feel different. It actually feels nice to laugh! Even, reading this post allowed me to laugh a decent amount of times. Mel Brook says this quote with humor but in reality, there is such a huge benefit to laughing. “ When you laugh, it’s an involuntary explosion of the lungs. The lungs need to replenish themselves with oxygen. So you laugh, you breathe, the blood runs, and everything is circulating. If you don’t laugh, you die”.
One of the questions asked during the interview was
“do you find a sense of humor about aging comes easier or harder as you get older yourself?” The response was humorful eluding that it is a great mechanism to deal with age. I find this so helpful because many of the things that we as human naturally stress over can simply be moments we laugh at. This reminds me of a Chapter in our Aging textbook in regards to motivation and positive energy to maintain a healthy lifestyle (Haber, Chapter 5). The ultimate success is seen with steady and consistent habits. Some tips include: constant motivation, creating measurable goals, and having positive thoughts throughout the journey, even when things get difficult. Laughing is such a huge stepping stone!
Jeanette Leardi says
While I agree that it’s very important to keep our humor as we age (I’m 67), the kind of levity reflected in this cartoonist’s work relies on and perpetuates ageist attitudes about growing older as a process solely of deterioration and decline. I would much rather see us make fun of the ways in which we deny aging, marginalize old people, and fail to recognize the skills, wisdom, and resilience people in their later years can display and share with the rest of society. That’s far more challenging to do, but I would laugh at that!
Marc Polish says
I have know and worked with ERIC for more than 30 years. When I am sad I think of him and I get my act together at once. Just thinking of him has help me overcome some major sadness in my life. Everyone should wake up every day with one of his images projected on the ceiling.
Tracy Huddleson says
His art and humor has always been one step beyond. I can see the same card over and over and still crack up! As I age I hope I always will.
Cartoonist webpage does not work. Where can we see more cartoons (besides the book, I mean)
stuart greenbaum says
Just noticed this. Here is a current link to Eric DeCetis’s Instagram account: