Feeling low? Get a prescription for a dose of culture

The ROM. Photo: Cherryl Bird
The ROM building. Photo: Cherryl Bird

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) launches a health and wellness program to allow thousands of people access to art and culture as a measure to counteract increasing social isolation and loneliness. All you need is a referral from your local community service centre.

The ROM is working with The Alliance for Healthier Communities, which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, to introduce a year-long social prescription pilot project throughout the province.

The pilot means that “more people struggling with health issues can visit the ROM and experience the many therapeutic aspects that art and culture have to offer,” says Michael Tibollo, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. 

Referrals are available through the ROM’s Community Access Network (ROMCAN). Community members who use health care, community or social services, could benefit from the uplifting experience of engaging with the arts and culture.

By partnering with the community, says Tibollo, ROMCAN will help people lead healthier lives and maintain better overall well-being.

Supplementing traditional treatments by engaging people in the arts and culture can help alleviate social isolation, promote physical and mental well-being, and improve overall quality of life. 

“We know that museum experiences have the power to enhance the health and well-being of communities,” and that was the idea behind launching the wellness program with community-based partners across the province, says Josh Basseches, ROM’s director and CEO.

Branded the Social Prescription Program by The Alliance for Healthier Communities, health care, community and social service providers can now “prescribe” a visit to the ROM as a non-medicinal, therapeutic service to promote health and well-being through ROMCAN’s province-wide community organizations, alongside their existing treatments. Individuals are given a ROM pass, valid for up to four visitors, to enjoy free, general admission access to the museum, including its collections, programs and associated activities. 

The program launched in January with a group of 20 ROMCAN partners, including the Rexdale Community Health Centre. Rexdale helped shape the ROM’s Social Prescription Program by participating in a preliminary pilot program last summer. It’s being rolled out to all ROMCAN partners throughout the year with a goal of reaching 5,000 community members and their families.

Chances are, you already know many of the program partners. They include the YMCA, public libraries, United Way, as well as community and ne

The Alliance offers social prescriptions in select community health centres to address the growing problems of loneliness and social isolation, particularly among older adults. The ROM will be collaborating with the Alliance throughout the year to better understand the impact of museums on health and well-being. Research resulting from this collaboration will help inform the ROM’s Social Prescription Program as it evolves.

by Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird

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