Projet 2020-0QAA-281107 / Octroi FRQSC

Co-development and deployment of a cycle of museum tours to counteract the social isolation of Montreal seniors.

Principal Investigator :
Dr Olivier Beauchet, University of Montreal


Social isolation is defined as the reduction, in number and quality, of interpersonal contacts resulting in a loss of a person’s social place and role. The proportion of frail seniors (i.e. >70 years old) with early social isolation is significant in Canada and estimated at 30%, or 1.5 million people. Quebec is one of the Canadian provinces that is aging the fastest and must therefore implement actions to counteract, that is to say, avoid, delay or slow down, the social isolation of seniors.

Social innovation: a possible response

In Montreal since 2019, a social innovation unique in Canada and in the world was born. This innovation consists of a cycle of guided tours at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), called “Coup de pouce museum tours”, whose objective is to counteract the social isolation of seniors living in Montreal. It brings together the MMFA, the Centre de recherche de l’institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (CRIUGM), the Association des Guides Bénévoles (AGB), the Service à la famille chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM) and the Groupe Harmonie (GH).


The body of evidence shows promising results for interventions involving art-based activity that address social isolation. However, no study (1) has looked at the feelings, needs and expectations of participants, (2) has involved the participants themselves in the process of co-creating the intervention, nor (3) has it studied the deployment (i.e., implementation and transfer) of the new knowledge gained in the practice settings. 

It is therefore necessary today to rethink the creation and deployment of an intervention aimed at combating the isolation of seniors. We suggest that a project integrating all of these components would be able to formalize an effective intervention (i.e., one that achieves its objective of fighting social isolation) and to deploy it by implementing an implementation and transfer strategy based on a concerted, standardized process adapted to the seniors and to the practice settings that receive it. 


We formalize the hypothesis that the cycle of “coup de pouce museum tours” as it exists today at the MMFA can be improved by using an action-research approach that will allow for co-development between all the actors involved (MMFA, CRIUGM, AGB, SFCGM, GH and seniors) in response to the needs and expectations of the latter, to amplify the expected positive effects of this cycle of museum visits on social isolation, and to identify the levers and obstacles to its deployment.     

Research question

Co-developing, examining the nature of the effects and their effectiveness, and deploying a social innovation such as the MMFA’s “coup de pouce museum tours” cycle obviously raises multiple transdisciplinary research questions such as: (1) What are the facilitators and barriers to implementing such a museum tours cycle? (2) What are the expectations, interests and needs of the seniors and of the practice environments involved (MMFA, AGB, SFCGM, GH)? (3) What are the real effects and effectiveness of this intervention on the social isolation, well-being, quality of life and frailty of seniors? (4) What are the choices to be made for a successful deployment in practice settings?

General and specific objectives

The general objective of the project is to co-develop and deploy the cycle of “Coup de pouce museum tours” in order to counteract the social isolation of Montreal seniors. 

Three specific objectives (SO) have been identified: (1) The first SO (SO1) has four dimensions which are (SO1a) to explain the knowledge acquired; (SO1b) to assess the gap between the current state and the desired situation; (SO1c) to examine the levers and obstacles to participation in a cycle of museum tours and to classify them by order of importance and priority; (SO1d) to characterize the interest, expectations and needs of the actors in the taking practice environments (MMFA, AGB, SFCGM, GH and seniors); (2) The second SO (SO2) is to examine the effects and effectiveness of the museum tours cycle on social isolation, improvement of well-being, quality of life and frailty of seniors; (3) The third SO (SO3) is to document the process surrounding the implementation and transfer of the museum tours cycle, in order to formalize a guide for an adapted and successful deployment in the recipient practice settings.


This project is based on a mixed design that combines a qualitative and quantitative approach, using the rules and methods of action research. 

The basic cycle of the project is composed of two consecutive phases of 6 months each: the first phase is a qualitative evaluation and the second phase is a quantitative evaluation. This 12-month cycle will be repeated a total of two times over the course of the project, with the first evaluative phase being in continuity with the experimental preparatory study conducted in 2019. The second cycle, which will end 24 months after the start of the project, will lead to a third 12-month phase corresponding to the deployment. The total duration of the project will therefore be 36 months.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was adapted. The cycle of tours will take place in a new format: virtual guided tours.

Partners & financial support