Humor doesn't retire: Improvisation as a health-promoting intervention for older adults

Lucy A. Morse, Linda Xiong, Vanessa Ramirez-Zohfeld, Seltzer Anne, Becca Barish, Lee A Lindquist*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


As our population ages and aging in place continues to remain a priority of older adults, identifying novel ways to promote the wellbeing of older adults and reduce isolation is of the utmost importance. The Second City is a Chicago-based comedy improvisation organization that provides training in improvisation. One of their training courses, Humor Doesn't Retire, specifically teaches adults 55 and over, on improvisation. This study sought to explore the experiences of older adults enrolled in Humor Doesn't Retire, and to characterize any benefits that older adult participants perceived following participation in the comedy improvisation course. Qualitative analysis was used to identify and describe common themes that emerged in a survey of open-ended questions regarding benefits of the improvisation course on outlook and mood as well as behavior changes. Results for perceived benefits showed main themes of increased positivity, an increased sense of comfort and ease with the unexpected, a sense of self-development and self-awareness, and a feeling of acceptance by their social group. Participants reported that these changes fed into their behaviors, and resulted in enhanced problem solving abilities, greater facility in social situations, and the tangible outcome of an expanded and closer-knit social circle. As the first study in our knowledge to examine the effect of improvisation comedy on healthy older adults, this exploratory analysis has suggested that improvisation comedy may be a mechanism by which to combat several geriatric syndromes, including depression, stress, and isolation − all of which are detrimental to older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Comedy
  • Improvisation
  • Isolation
  • Older adults
  • Self-development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Aging
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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