Maybe when people get older, sense of a humor is the first thing to go.
Actually, research suggests that old folks, if they’re healthy, can still appreciate humor as much as a younger person can. They still smile and laugh when they get the joke. However, there is evidence to suggest that with age we may lose our ability to comprehend more complex forms of humor.
Scientists believe that the tools we need to get a complex joke are primarily located in the brain’s frontal lobes. People with damage to their right frontal lobe experience difficulty getting punch lines and prefer slapstick humor instead.
There’s also evidence that the functions located in the brain’s frontal lobes may be the first to diminish with aging. This may explain why in a recent experiment older folks performed significantly worse than younger folks in comprehending more complex forms of humor.
Of course, it’s also important to take into account factors such as social differences in the kind of humor people prefer, social setting, and health. Maybe an elderly person would laugh at a joke if she were socializing with a group of her friends, but not laugh with her neighbor whom she doesn’t know well or finds annoying.