Canberra aged care workers are training to harness the power of smiles and laughter for health benefits.
The SMILE study, conducted by the University of NSW's Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, has found bringing a smile to the face of an elderly person through playful interactions can significantly reduce agitation in nursing home residents.
"Play is such an essential thing," Humour Foundation artistic director David Symons said.
"We are able to play right up until the end and dementia studies have shown a sense of humour is one of the last things we lose."
Mr Symons said the Sydney Multi-site Interventions by Laughter bosses and Elder clowns (SMILE) study demonstrated the value in changing care facility's culture to incorporate play.
"The main finding was that intervention reduced agitation to the same level as anti-psychotic drugs did," he said.
"It's much better to have laughter intervention which has no negative consequences, where often using drugs has negative consequences such as drowsiness and other complications such as falls and social withdrawal."
Clown doctors have been working in children's hospital for years, but national laughter boss workshops meant staff in aged care facilities across Australia had the skills to incorporate humour therapy in everyday care.
Mr Symons will lead Canberra's first laughter boss workshop on July 24 at Majura Community Hall in Dickson.
He said becoming a laughter boss was not about being an extrovert in the workplace.
"It's not about you changing yourself or being an outgoing performer," he said.
"It's about making a great connection whether that's through conversation, reminiscence, props or simply asking for their advice on gardening or marriage for instance."
Goodwin aged care services chief executive officer Sue Levy said seven activities officers would take part in the Canberra workshop on July 24 and apply what they learn to Goodwin's own humour therapy program Just for Laughs.
"You really see residents come to life when we use play and humour," she said.
"Laughter and play are used in Goodwin's Just for Laughs program by bringing residents together in a group setting for light-hearted improvisation and role plays."
Goodwin activities officer Kylie Hannigan said she was looking forward to learning new techniques at the July workshop.
"I'm definitely looking forward to knowing how to have more fun with the residents, they are pretty fun anyway, but it will be great to have other ways for some of the ones who are harder to get to."