Visits to virtual museums can combat social isolation and improve quality of life for older adults, study finds

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Weekly visits to virtual museums can help improve the quality of life of older adults at high risk of health problems due to social isolation, according to a new study. The authors hope that the activity could become a model offered worldwide.

The research, published in Frontiers in Psychologyfound that seniors who participated in weekly online guided tours for three months experienced substantial improvements in well-being.

The study included 106 seniors, half of whom attended 45-minute online guided tours via Zoom through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts once a week between January and April. Each tour included a group of six to eight participants with a qualified guide. An optional 15 minute informal chat to allow for additional socializing was offered.

The content of the tour included a combination of images of artworks, live discussions narrated by the tour guides, additional information about the artwork or artist, and pre-recorded videos about artworks or specific artists.

Investigators reported that the intervention group showed significant improvement in their social isolation, well-being, quality of life, and frailty scores compared to the control group, with the highest benefits seen with fragility.

The research builds on a 2018 pilot study that found that art activities organized by the museum could improve the well-being, quality of life and health of older people. Building on the success of this pilot project, the Research Center of the University Institute of Geriatrics of Montreal, in collaboration with the MMFA and the University of Montreal, is developing a new program — the Arts & Longevity Laboratory — which combines art and health. . The purpose of the lab is to develop, validate and promote art-based interventions for older adults.

Lead author Olivier Beauchet, MD, a professor at the University of Montreal, said in a statement that museums can become partners in public health research and practice development because they are “aware of the needs of their communities and therefore expand the types of activities they offer”.

Although the observation that arts-based activities can benefit physical and mental health is not new, this study was the first to document and report on virtual museum visits, according to the authors.

“Positive experiences generated by artistic activities offered online can improve well-being, which improves the quality of life and, ultimately, physical and mental health,” they concluded, adding that such experiences must put the focus on group activities, be focused. oriented and useful, and include a creative component.

“Like other arts activities, this particular program, delivered online, appears to have been an effective digital cultural intervention to alleviate social isolation and the progression of physical frailty, positioning museums as key actors for social prevention and health, and to foster connectivity in the aging population,” the authors concluded.

“Globally, this participatory art-based activity could become a model that could be offered in museums and art institutions around the world to promote active and healthy aging,” Beauchet said.

The other study partners were McGill University in Montreal, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Concordia University in Montreal.

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