Social prescribing for older people in the time of COVID drawing on the cultural sector

We will be examining social prescribing for older people in the time of COVID drawing on the cultural sector in a project titled: “Optimising cultural provision to improve older people’s wellbeing through social prescribing in the context of COVID-19: Realist review and evaluation.”

In recent years, the cultural sector (i.e. gardens and open spaces, galleries, museums, heritage sites, theatres, and libraries) has supported public wellbeing (e.g. by providing a space for relaxation and distraction, volunteering opportunities, or putting on activities for specific populations). Such provision can be considered as part of the ‘community assets’ (e.g. groups, organisations, charities, activities) that are central to social prescribing.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting what the cultural sector can offer, at a time when significant mental and/or social consequences of the crisis are anticipated (e.g. fear, low mood, money worries), especially among older people. From the outset, this population was identified as ‘at risk’ from the condition itself and responses to it (e.g. extreme loneliness). 

Our research will explore how the cultural sector adapts to support older people’s wellbeing. This will allow us to provide recommendations to the cultural sector about being 'referral-ready' (O’Neill, 2010) for social prescribing with older people in the context of the current pandemic and future ones. We will use a realist approach to explore what works, for whom, why and in what circumstances. This will involve developing a programme theory on how the cultural sector might be best mobilised and engaged to support older people's resilience during and after the pandemic.