Humor and Aging

A study by Washington University researchers published recently in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on the relationship between age and humor has implications for creative design of advertising messages. Researchers found that adults over age 65 have more difficulty getting the punch lines of jokes than young adults because of age-related changes in processing abilities. Link The researchers point out that their findings do not mean that older adults do not respond to humor, but rather that the reasoning and cognitive skills used to process humorous messages change with age. These findings are similar to those of a Canadian study published in 2003 that found humor comprehension among older adults is less compared with young adults. These researchers also point out that their findings do not suggest older adults aren't funny or don't appreciate humor. Link

So, what does these findings mean for marketers? Ad agencies involved in the creation of brand messages must take into account this phenomenon when developing messages aimed at senior consumers. Obviously, any copywriter or creative person would take into account characteristics of the demographic being targeted. But, these results suggest that it's more than just recognition of age differences in the processing of humorous messages. When marketing to seniors, encoding humor into messages is still a viable option, but the approach taken to developing a humorous message must be different than that used to create humor for younger audiences.