Museums on prescription: a social prescribing intervention for isolated older adults


  • P.M. Camic
  • L.J. Thomson
  • H.J. Chatterjee
  • B. Lockyer


Background: Social prescribing, a relatively new UK health promotion initiative, links patients in primary care with local sources of support within the community. We sought to explore the impact and role of museums/art galleries within a social prescribing framework. The main research questions examined if a 10-week museum-based intervention programme could reduce social isolation and loneliness and increase wellbeing in older adults. Methods: This mixed-methods longitudinal study involved 110 participants (65-86 years), identifying as socially isolated and lonely. Standardised measures were completed at multiple time points; detailed diaries from participants, museum facilitators and researchers, along with interviews (end of programme, 3- and 6-month followup), were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Measures of psychological wellbeing (UCL-WM), mental wellbeing (WEBWMS) and loneliness (R-UCLA) were taken at baseline, mid- and end-programme and R-UCLA at 3- and 6-month followup. One-way analysis of variance found a highly significant increase over time for the UCL-WM, F(2,112) = 12.871, p<0.001, partial eta square = 0.187, observed power = 0.997, but no significant changes for WEBWMS, F(2,122) = 0.652, p<0.523; or for R-UCLA; F(2,124) = 0.890, p<0.413. Qualitative themes included the importance of an engaging facilitator, learning new information and sharing this learning with other people within a supportive group environment. These critical components appeared to facilitate wellbeing effects, including mental stimulation, inspiring creativity and feeling more valued. For those that were particularly isolated, participating in the programme increased social confidence. Discussion: Museums, as community-based partners, offer important resources for health psychologists to co-develop non-clinical, heath promoting interventions.





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