man looking at a painting

Visiting a Museum Could Improve Your Health


As adults continue to age and enter into their retirement years, there’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of staying busy. Being an active older adult, whether this means going out to dinner with friends or taking a walk each morning, has been linked to decreasing the risk of depression and isolation while increasing cognitive health. While any type of activity is beneficial, new research suggests that visiting a museum might help you live longer.

According to the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University College London found that older adults who visited just one exhibition a year had a 14% lower risk of early mortality. In addition, those who visited exhibitions regularly benefited from a 31% lower risk of early death. Not only can visiting museums promote longevity, but it also provides a wide variety of both emotional and physical benefits.

Amanda Clears, Associate Director of Resident Experience, has been taking residents to a variety of museums in recent weeks as part of our On the Town experiences. “Our residents are very knowledgeable about art, theatre, and music. They have a great interest in learning and teaching. I love hearing how an artist or work of art affects our residents and when they seek to inform me about the life of the artist and the techniques they use. Many of them have had experiences in the past with an artist or a particular work of art, and they often reflect on what certain pieces remind them of or how they make them feel.”

Amanda continued to say that art causes a reaction in people because it elicits emotion. If we can connect with the emotion being expressed, our interpretation of the work of art, or if we can find some kind of connection, that causes us to react. Residents from both Sol and Oceana Memory Care have been On the Town visiting some exciting exhibits in the city. Amanda told us that visiting the immersive Van Gogh Exhibit with Sol and Oceana residents and their families was overwhelmingly beautiful. Thoroughly immersive and interactive, it was a huge hit with everyone that participated. We’ve been to The Morgan Library & Museum to see the collection of rare books, manuscripts, and Renaissance art. Sol residents visited the special Cézanne Drawing exhibit at the MoMA. 

There are many upcoming trips planned to museums and exhibitions, including the New-York Historical Society, a resident-led tour to a corporate building in Midtown where his photographic work hangs, and Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage to Screen exhibit. 

Benefits of Visiting Museums

Whether you prefer art, history, or nature, there truly is a museum for everyone to enjoy. Along with being entertained, especially during the winter months, the act of visiting a museum can help stimulate your emotional and cognitive skills. The next time you find yourself at a museum, here’s what you’re doing for yourself without even knowing it:

Nurturing Your Inner Student

No matter your interest or museum of choice, visiting an exhibition allows you to learn something new while exercising your critical thinking skills. All museums require us to be still, interpret what we’re seeing, and reflect on its meaning. At the end of the visit, you walk away knowing more than when you arrived.

Unleashing Your Creative Side

Art museums, in particular, allow us to tap into our creative sides. As we get older, our creative minds can often get neglected. Visiting an art museum is a great way to exercise our inner artist just by looking at what’s in front of us.

Building Your Inner Circle

As we age, socializing becomes important for our health. Isolation can affect many older adults. Visiting a museum allows us to socialize with those around us and provides a common ground for conversation with other museumgoers.

Helping Those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s

The benefits of visiting a museum have not been lost on those who care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Museums are even developing specific programs. The American Alliance of Museums highlighted in a piece on “Older Adults and Programming for People with Dementia” some specific programming happening in California. “The Museum of Photographic Arts, in San Diego, CA, offers two notable programming initiatives for people with memory loss, and what I find most interesting is their approach to both engagement and assessment.”

Tips for Visiting Museums

While making a spur-of-the-moment trip to the museum on a rainy day is a great idea, it can be helpful to do some planning in advance. As you choose which museum you want to visit, you might consider using these simple tips to make your trip more enjoyable.

• Call ahead – Before you pack up your car and begin your trip, it’s important to call your museum of choice to check their hours of operation. You might also ask when the busy visiting times are throughout the day to avoid crowds.

• Utilize audio tours and assistive hearing devices – Many museums offer guided audio tours of their exhibitions for an additional cost. This can enhance your experience while also allowing you to learn more about what you’re seeing. Check with your museum to see if you need to reserve the audio tour ahead of time.

• Book a private tour – Many museums have volunteer docents available to give private tours of the exhibit. Many of these docents study the exhibit ahead of time and are very knowledgeable on the subject matter. Not only can the docents give you an inside look at most exhibits, but they often know more details than what is offered on a brochure or wall description.

• Pack water and snacks – If your museum allows you to bring food, make sure to take advantage of it. Pack water and your meal or a few snacks with you since you will be walking and standing for long periods.

• Enjoy with a group – Visiting a museum is a great opportunity for socialization. Invite a few friends or your loved ones to visit with you!

Bringing new experiences to our residents helps them grow as individuals and enriches their lives. We work with a variety of engagement partners to support our philosophy of caring for the whole self, and every day, we integrate our Nine Core Elements into activities.

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