BACKGROUND: Non-medical issues (e.g. loneliness, financial concerns, housing problems) can shape how people feel physically and psychologically. This has been emphasised during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for older people. Social prescribing is proposed as a means of addressing non-medical issues, which can include drawing on support offered by the cultural sector. METHOD: A rapid realist review was conducted to explore how the cultural sector (in particular public/curated gardens, libraries and museums), as part of social prescribing, can support the holistic well-being of older people under conditions imposed by the pandemic. An initial programme theory was developed from our existing knowledge and discussions with cultural sector staff. It informed searches on databases and within the grey literature for relevant documents, which were screened against the review's inclusion criteria. Data were extracted from these documents to develop context-mechanism-outcome configurations (CMOCs). We used the CMOCs to refine our initial programme theory. RESULTS: Data were extracted from 42 documents. CMOCs developed from these documents highlighted the importance of tailoring-shaping support available through the cultural sector to the needs and expectations of older people-through messaging, matching, monitoring and partnerships. Tailoring can help to secure benefits that older people may derive from engaging with a cultural offer-being distracted (absorbed in an activity) or psychologically held, making connections or transforming through self-growth. We explored the idea of tailoring in more detail by considering it in relation to Social Exchange Theory. CONCLUSIONS: Tailoring cultural offers to the variety of conditions and circumstances encountered in later life, and to changes in social circumstances (e.g. a global pandemic), is central to social prescribing for older people involving the cultural sector. Adaptations should be directed towards achieving key benefits for older people who have reported feeling lonely, anxious and unwell during the pandemic and recovery from it.
COVID-19, Cultural sector, Older people, Realist review, Social prescribing, Well-being