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PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors)


Host Institution
University of Washington: Health Promotion Research Center

Health Topics
Aging & elderly health | Mental health

Minor depression affects 15% to 20% of older adults. It is especially common among older adults who are socially isolated or in frail health. Doctors and their older patients may incorrectly assume that depression is an unavoidable consequence of aging; only about half of depressed older adults receive treatment. Depression profoundly affects the health and quality of life of seniors as well as their ability to live independently. Depressed older adults are less likely to follow their doctors’ treatment guidelines or engage in healthy practices to manage chronic health conditions.

In a partnership with the City of Seattle’s Aging and Disability Services and Senior Services of Seattle/King County the center’s PEARLS program aims to reduce minor depression and resulting disability among older adults by teaching them depression management techniques. It consists of eight in-home counseling sessions followed by monthly telephone calls for 6 months. The counseling covers three behavioral approaches to managing depression: 1) participants are taught a set of steps they can use to solve their problems — from clearly defining the problem to implementing their chosen solution. These steps help participants recognize symptoms of depression and understand the link between unsolved problems and depression; 2) participants are encouraged to meet recommended levels of social and physical activity by using community settings, such as senior centers, community centers, and faith communities; and 3) participants are taught to identify and participate in personally pleasurable activities.

The program has been found effective in reducing participants’ depressive symptoms, improving participants’ functional and emotional well-being, and reducing participants' use of health care services.

Snowden M, Piering P, Favaro S. Evidence-Based Depression Care Management: Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors (PEARLS). Webinar presentation, Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Healthy Aging Research Network (HAN) Webinar Series, 2008;
Research Setting
Race or Ethnicity
No specific focus
No specific focus
Age Group
Older adults (50 years and older)
Related Story of Prevention Research
PEARLS Gives Seniors with Minor Depression New Hope

Related Prevention Strategy
Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors (PEARLS)—A Depression Management Program for Elderly Adults

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Principal Investigator
Sheryl Schwartz

Project Identifier
PEARLS - Core Project (1998-2004)

Funding Source
PRC Program

Project Status
Not active