Research Analyzes Effects of Virtual Tours on Older Adults Experiencing Social Isolation – News-Medical.Net | Candle Made Easy

Scientists have long known that social isolation is associated with a range of health problems, including an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as mental decline and even premature death. The risks are particularly acute for older adults, who are more likely to be socially isolated and lonely. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem as social distancing is required, particularly to protect the health of the world’s elderly population.

But the same digital technologies that have helped workers connect remotely could help older adults become healthier physically, mentally and socially when combined with interactive, arts-based activities. That’s according to a new study published in the journal frontiers in medicine This shows for the first time how virtual museum visits can significantly improve the quality of life of elderly people who are stuck at home.

Researchers in Canada partnered with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) to examine the potential benefits of weekly virtual visits over a three-month period. The study recruited 106 people ages 65 and older living in the greater Montreal area. Half of the participants took part in online tours once a week, while the control group refrained from participating in cultural activities during the same period.

The intervention group showed significant improvements in their social isolation, well-being, quality of life and frailty rating compared to the control group, according to the paper.

Our study showed that arts-based activities can be an effective intervention. On a global scale, this participatory arts-based activity could become a model that could be offered in museums and arts institutions worldwide to promote active and healthy aging.”


dr Olivier Beauchet, lead author of the study and professor, University of Montreal

The biggest benefit of the 45 minute virtual museum tours, which also included a 15 minute Q&A with a museum guide at the end, was in Frailty.

Frailty refers to a “vulnerable condition that exposes individuals to adverse health events and disabilities that negatively impact their quality of life and increase health and welfare costs,” explained Beauchet. “Health and social systems must address the challenge of limiting frailty and its associated adverse consequences in the aging population.”

The new study is an extension of previous research examining the potential health benefits of an ongoing MMFA program for seniors called Thursdays at the Museum. The results of the 2018 one-armed pilot study showed that arts-based activities hosted by the museum can improve the well-being, quality of life, and health of older adults.

In fact, the success of the pilot led to a three-year multinational study to test the effectiveness of such arts-based interventions across societies and cultures. In addition, the Research Center of the Geriatric University Institute of Montreal, in collaboration with the MMFA and the University of Montreal, is developing a new program called Arts & Longevity Lab that combines arts and health. The purpose of the laboratory is to develop, validate, and promote arts-based interventions for older adults.

According to Beauchet, these initiatives reflect approaches advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat chronic diseases. For example, in 2015, WHO launched the Aging and Health program, which included using community-based organizations to promote culture as a key component to improving health. Traditionally, these types of preventative health activities take place in schools, community centers, and the workplace.

“While these are appropriate sites that reach large numbers of people, there are other organizations and sectors that could become partners in public health research and practice development,” Beauchet said. “Museums are among such potential partners. They are aware of the needs of their communities and are therefore expanding the types of activities they offer.”

Source:

Magazine reference:

Beauchet, O. et al. (2022) Benefits of a 3-month cycle of weekly virtual museum tours among older adults in shared accommodation: results from a randomized controlled trial. frontiers in medicine. doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2022.969122.

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