It’s fairly common knowledge that a healthy diet, regular exercise and social interaction are key ingredients in aging well but research also finds that exposure to culture; art, music, or theater is also beneficial to health and well being. Recognizing this benefit, doctors in Quebec, Canada will soon be able to prescribe a trip to the art gallery, along with a friend or family caregiver, to improve patient health.
Whether it’s a frail elderly adult or a patient fighting cancer or living with multiple chronic conditions, sometimes there is little traditional medicine can do to improve quality of life. But according to a recent report in the Montreal Gazette, art therapy can boost our physical health at any age by raising cortisol and serotonin levels, hormones that improve our sense of well-being. And because our mental health is so closely linked with physical health, patients benefit in many ways from participating in activities like visiting an art gallery. Very elderly or ill patients may not be able to go for a brisk walk or run to raise their happy hormone levels, but visiting a museum and soaking up the sights and sounds can have very much the same effect on mood and overall health.
Experiencing art, whether by creating or viewing it, can also have a positive effect on cognitive function. Research has found that making or viewing art can produce new neural pathways, allowing the brain to adapt and help preserve or improve function. By flexing the creativity of the brain, older adults can help protect the aging brain against cognitive decline.
Beginning November 1, physicians who are members of Médecins francophones du Canada will be able to send up to 50 patients, along with an adult caregiver and two children under the age of 17, to visit the Museum of Fine Arts free of charge. The year-long pilot program is the first of it’s kind worldwide, and it is hoped that the concept will grow in acceptance and use, bringing patients with chronic illness joy and a greater sense of well-being.
Learn more about the positive effect art has on the physical and mental health and well-being of people by following this link to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.