Q&A with recreational activity leader Lucie Lafleur

Residents living at Chartwell City Centre may have had the opportunity to participate in one of Lucie Lafleur’s Laughter Yoga sessions. Lucie, who has worked at this retirement residence for the past couple of years, was recently featured on CTV. She took some time to talk with us about the life enrichment programs available to seniors living at Chartwell, as well as her popular Laughter Yoga activity.

How long have you been working in senior living and what brought you here?

After enjoying and owning my home daycare for 12 years, I decided it was time for a change and to go back out into the workforce. I’ve been working for Chartwell City Centre for two years and loving every minute of it.

What sort of life enrichment programs are offered at Chartwell?

We offer a variety of programs that meet the needs of seniors. With the help of Chartwell’s Six Signature Programs, which include physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational and spiritual, I know the residents’ needs are met.

I offer two exercise classes: one that is a Chartwell Signature Program called Rhythm & Moves, and an exercise class with the option of weights.

A vocational program that gives the resident an opportunity to give back to the community would be the H.O.P.E. program (Helping Others for Purposeful Engagement). An intellectual program is the Fit Mind Company. Port of Call, our social program, lets residents take a trip to any destination without ever leaving the comfort of their home.

I have a variety of emotional programs, which include, but aren’t limited to, Art Classes, Laughter Yoga, Spa Day and much more. For our spiritual program, we offer the Java Music Club; this program offers a safe, warm and loving environment for the resident to either discuss with or just listen to others. It also gives the resident an increased feeling of empowerment and purpose.

Why should older adults participate in recreational activities?

Everyone should take part in recreational activities, but being an older adult, you are sometimes left on your own. Participating in recreational activities is not only beneficial to their health, as it keeps them in good physical condition, but it can help ward off illness, extend their life expectancy, slow down the aging process, increase their self-esteem and lead to a better quality of life.

What is Laughter Yoga and how is it different from the traditional exercise? In a typical session, what sort of activities do participants engage in? How can seniors benefit from Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine that combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing. Laughter yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of ‘laughter exercises’ that combine the method of acting and visualization techniques with playfulness. A Laughter Yoga session can last up to one hour and may finish with ‘laughter meditation.’ This is a session of unstructured laughter where participants sit or lie down and allow natural laughter to flow from within like a fountain. This is a powerful experience that often leads to a healthy emotional catharsis and also a feeling of release and joyfulness that can last for days.

The reason we call it Laughter Yoga is because it combines laughter exercises with yoga breathing. Since we only use 25 percent of our lung capacity, 75 percent is stale air. This stale air has no health benefit, which in turn can lead to physical and mental health problems.

From the first Laughter Yoga class, you start to bring more oxygen to the body and the brain, which makes one feel more energetic and healthy. It has been proven that the mental health benefits of Laughter Yoga can reduce stress and even help with depression and anxiety. Ten minutes of laughter equals 30 minutes of rowing. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, if done with willingness. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Are there opportunities for seniors to socialize during these programs?

Any activity gives seniors an opportunity to be social. If they do what they love – either walking, dancing, singing, etc. -  it’s a chance for them to take part in physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and vocational activities. We all want to be part of a group and have a sense of belonging, regardless of age. By choosing an activity you love, you can decrease depression, lower anxiety, reduce stress, improve your self-esteem, and increase your health and well being, all while having fun and enjoying life!