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Project to stop isolation in older adults wins two public health awards

27 October 2017

A unique research project by Canterbury Christ Church University and University College London to help lonely, older adults at risk of isolation has been awarded two prestigious public health awards by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

Museums on Prescription is the first scheme of its kind in the UK to tackle health inequalities by directly linking up museums and referrers from health, social care and third sector organisations.

By producing new programmes of museum-based, creative activities for lonely, older adults aged 65-94 years at risk of social isolation, it aims to improve the mental and psychological wellbeing and social inclusion of older adults.

Results from the project found significant improvements in the psychological wellbeing of participants, including a sense of belonging, improved quality of life, renewed interest in learning and increased social activity. These improvements continued beyond the end of the programme, with many continuing their visits to museums.

The project was awarded the RSPH Arts and Health Award 2017, as well as receiving a Commendation for Sustainable Development. The judging panel for the Arts and Health Awards said: “Museums on Prescription stood out as a sustainable and cost effective programme which empowers organisations that already exist to work in a new way. It utilises previously under-used community resources to improve public health.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive for Public Health England, added: “The commendations we have awarded cover two critical responsibilities for everyone in public service: reducing inequalities and sustainable development. 2017's award-winning organisations have demonstrated that they are doing an exceptional job in addressing them.”

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Professor Paul Camic second right

Paul Camic, Professor of Psychology and Public Health at the Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, helped lead the project. He said: "The Museums on Prescription project has demonstrated that museums can provide ongoing structured sessions to support older people who are socially isolated. Results included an increase in subjective wellbeing, an increase in connectedness to other people, the valuing of the museum as a place for new learning and social support.

“I am stunned and delighted that we were given two awards in recognition of our work; one for sustainability from Public Health England and the top prize in Arts and Health from the Royal Society for Public Health.

“I am hoping that museums, both large urban ones, and smaller borough and local museums, will now see the value in considering their organisations as being able to support older people and more broadly, to support the public's health through innovative programmes and their collections."

The project was carried out by University College London and Canterbury Christ Church University, in partnership with seven museums, three health and social care trusts, and four third-sector organisations across Kent and central London.

Notes to editors

  • Twelve, free 10-week programmes of weekly, two-hour museum sessions for groups of around 10 participants plus carers/befrienders were led by museum staff and included curator talks, behind-the-scenes tours, museum object handling and discussion, and creative and co-productive activities inspired by the collections involving writing, drawing, print-making, weaving, and designing exhibitions, booklets and guides.
  • The sessions were facilitated by seven museums across central London and Kent - British Museum, Central St Martins Museum and Study Collection, The Postal Museum, UCL Museums, The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury, Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery and Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • Over 94% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2015/16 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 17/11/2017 15:14:00