89 people in the Portuguese multiplier sessions of Culture on Prescription organised by SHINE 2Europe

SHINE 2Europe has been working for the past two years, alongside 7 partner organizations from six other European countries, on the Culture on Prescription project, funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission. The project aimed to prevent and combat social isolation and loneliness through art and culture.

As the project heads to completion, SHINE organized a multiplier event in Portugal, consisting of four sessions, with the aim of disseminating and promoting replicability and uptake of the project’s results. The event was organised in collaboration with NOVA University Lisbon (two sessions) and the Coimbra Education School (two sessions), where participants had the opportunity to learn about the Culture on Prescription project, social and cultural prescription, and the project’s outcomes.

Eighty-nine participants attended the four sessions, 52 presential and the others online, with enthusiasm for the topics and the project’s approach. The consensus was that cultural prescription can improve overall quality of life, especially for those who are lonely and isolated. Participants also noted that the project’s results serve as a good starting point for changing mindsets regarding the importance of community engagement.

Cultural prescribing involves healthcare professionals referring lonely and isolated (older) individuals to locally available art and cultural offerings. It is a social intervention based on “social prescribing” practices, aiming to “prescribe” experiences related to art, culture, and social activities to reduce social isolation and loneliness. During the project, participants learned more about culture and engaged in cultural activities themselves, enhancing social skills, feelings of belonging and trust, and expanding their network of contacts and friends.

This project specifically focuses on the art and cultural offerings of Cultural Prescription, as they can impact people of all ages. Art and culture can positively affect individual health and well-being, both physically and mentally. Engagement in art and culture is known to enhance the quality of life for those involved, with people being less likely to feel lonely, depressed, or stressed compared to those who do not participate in such projects.

At the beginning of the Multiplier Event sessions, participants were asked to consider what social activity they would prescribe to improve someone’s mental health and why. Many responses related to cultural and outdoor activities, confirming that the main topic of the project resonated with the audience. Therefore, the methodology of social prescription and the connection between art, culture, and quality of life improvement were discussed.

Special focus during the presentation was given to the Facilitators area and the training kit (two main results of the project). Participants gained a better understanding of the European curriculum and available materials for facilitators. One participant expressed intent to become a facilitator in her village and recruit her mother’s support (as an older adult) to act as a link worker and promote cultural activities within their community. In another session, particular emphasis was placed on evaluation and how to assess the benefits of social and cultural prescription. The participants were very interested in knowing better how the pilots went and how the methodology can be put into practice.

For further information about the Culture on Prescription project and to join the community discussing cultural prescribing and its impact on combating loneliness and social isolation, visit the website – https://culture-on-prescription.eu/ and connect with the EPALE community – https://epale.ec.europa.eu/en/private/culture-prescription.