Virtual Trips to Museums Help Reduce Loneliness

Connecting digitally has a host of benefits.

Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts online.

(Cenz07 /

A virtual visit to a museum could help seniors stay mentally active and comes with a host of additional health benefits. That’s because these digital connections can make retirees feel less lonely and isolated.

A study from the University of Montreal and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, published in Frontiers in Medicine,  found that regular online visits may reduce the risk for strokes, heart disease and cognitive decline.

Social isolation has been associated with these conditions and the coronavirus pandemic increased the risks due to the need for seniors to stay home and isolate, according to a press release from the university.

The researchers investigated the potential benefits of weekly virtual visits for a three-month period. The participants were people aged 65 and older who lived in the Montreal, Canada area. Half of the study’s participants attended online visits and a discussion afterwards, while the control group did not partake in any cultural events at all.

This study was actually an extension of an earlier experiment by the museum in 2018 that was Called Thursday’s at the Museum, according to Study Finds. This research suggested that art-based activities can improve the well-being of older adults.

What the new study found
The group who participated in the virtual visits showed significant improvements in their quality of life and frailty assessments. Frailty is the outcome when people are exposed to conditions that negatively impact their health and wellbeing.

“Our study showed that art-based activity may be an effective intervention,” lead author Dr. Olivier Beauchet, a professor at the University of Montreal, said in the press release. “On a global scale, this participatory art-based activity could become a model that could be offered in museums and arts institutions worldwide to promote active and healthy aging.”

Virtual visits with pets
In New York, the state office for aging (OFA) has a unique program to reduce social isolation through video chats for virtual pet visits, reported The Daily News. The program has joined in a partnership with the national nonprofit Pets Together.

“Pets are known for their therapeutic abilities, and they are also great conversation starters. These two factors combined go a long way in helping to reduce the major health implications associated with loneliness and social isolation,” NY state OFA director Greg Olsen told the daily news

The video chats run around 30 minutes and match the senior with volunteer pet owners. The conversations give an opportunity to engage the older adults and help to combat social isolation. The featured pets include dogs, cats, ponies, and even bearded dragons.

“Our volunteers use conversations about their pets to make a connection with the audience,” said Pets Together executive director Jennifer Bashford. “ Every visit is different, and you never know which animal is going to be on the call, or how they’ll behave. Our volunteers have also formed a close community, as many are retired individuals themselves. Pets really do have the ability to bring us together.”

Lessening loneliness in senior adults is the best way to keep minds sharp and bodies healthy. Whether it is through art, music, or pet therapy, anything that keeps people engaged is a big plus.

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