Rendezvous With Life Dressed in Sunday best

Giora Seeliger

Humanity and humour in old age

Guest commentary Giora Seeliger

Artistic Director of RED NOSES Clowndoctors International

 

Children laugh an average of 400 times a day. In comparison, adults laugh only between 15 to 20 times. What happens at an older age? How about when one is elderly and living in a nursing home? I find the prospective of this disheartening. 

It is the mission of a professional clowndoctor to improve these statistics. In geriatric institutions, a slow and ever-recurring rhythm prevails. We are there to bring through cautious and uplifting moments. These changes of mood that we foster, they are the essence of what it means to be alive. 

Laughter is always a sign of vitality and youthfulness. It improves communication and intensifies ones verbal and emotional receptiveness towards others. It's like a rendezvous with life. This awakens one’s spirits and one’s ability to feel alive. Is that not also desirable in old age? 

Clowndoctors regularly come to visit, dressed in their Sunday best. For some, this was part of their Golden Age. By inviting each elderly person they meet to a waltz, to a mutual sing-a-long or to a chat on the same level, the clowndoctors combine empathy with optimism and respect. 

Topics discussed often vary, from the present weather, to their well-being, to the love of their life. Oh yes, love! There is always a lot to tell and the clowns are terribly clumsy in flirting. The elders can still teach us a thing or two on these important topics.

You may have some resounding doubt. “Where is the dignity of the old person? Old people and clowns, that’s childish and improper!” you might say. Then hear my retort. Do not condemn the work of clowndoctors so hastily, just because you reject them intellectually. Look closer and listen. Come join us in the geriatric institutions!

We do not visit just once in geriatric patients. In many cases, we forge relationships with the elderly until the very end. We are part of their journey, something abnormal in the normal routine. We often get asked, “When are you coming back?” In fact, it is the most common question we get as clowns from senior citizens, much more often from them than when we visit children!

The fool and the jester were historically always a reflection of society. They portrayed the reality behind the reality. The clownly type were not merely entertainers, but critical minds and philosophical debaters. The clown is an archetype of a man, in which we all recognize a part of ourselves. Therefore, he is also a symbol of humanity.

Do we not all want a bit more of that? Humanity and humour in our old age?

About Giora Seeliger:

Giora founded RED NOSES in Austria and 9 other countries. He is a clowning expert, actor, director and coach. Co-host of the conference: Healthcare Clowning International Meeting 2018 in Vienna.

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