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In this blog, Stephanie Tierney, who is co-leading a study funded through UK Research and Innovation, outlines the first part of this new realist project, which builds on a previous piece of work about the cultural sector, older people and social prescribing.

Social prescribing is an increasingly common, complementary approach to healthcare that seeks to address people’s non-medical needs. Non-medical needs include issues such as loneliness, worries about money or housing problems that can affect people’s well-being or health behaviours. Link workers play a key role in social prescribing by connecting people to relevant community assets that can assist with their non-medical needs. These community assets tend to be delivered by the voluntary-community sector. Cultural provision (e.g. a singing or movement group, activities in a museum, volunteering at a theatre) may form part of a social prescription.

Previously, members of the Oxford Social Prescribing Research Network conducted a study on the cultural sector’s role in social prescribing for older people (aged 60+ years). This research involved a review of the literature, interviews with older people and cultural providers, and a questionnaire sent to link workers. It highlighted the importance of tailoring what was offered by the cultural sector to reflect the preferences and requirements of this age group. A report of this research has been published that outlines implications of the findings for those involved in social prescribing and for the cultural sector.

Our new study will build on what we learnt previously by focusing specifically on the views and experiences of, and support provided for, older people from an ethnic minority group. The first part of this work will involve the completion of a scoping review to address the question: What does the existing literature tell us about designing social prescribing cultural offers that are appropriate for older people from ethnic minority groups in the UK?

We have developed a protocol for the review. Over the next six months we will be searching for relevant literature, screening it to see if it meets the review’s inclusion criteria, extracting data from studies that do and then reporting what we find. As well as highlighting ideas for tailoring cultural provision for older people from ethnic minority groups, findings from the review will also inform the next stage of the research. This next stage will involve carrying out case studies of groups/organisations/activities that are cultural in nature and are aimed at older people from ethnic minority groups. Work on this next stage of the research is due to start in spring 2024. Further blogs about this research will be posted on this website. If you want to find out more about the study, please contact Stephanie Tierney (

The study mentioned in this blog is funded by a grant from UK Research and Innovation (MR/Y010000/1). The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the funder or the author’s host institution.