PEARLS Initiative to Address Depression in Older Adults

Did you know that one in five older adults may experience depression? Studies show that the burden of depression tends to be higher among those who are isolated, live alone, live in poverty, speak a different language and have complex health issues in addition to people of color. Depression can impact the quality of life, function, health and risk of death among older adults. For example, depression increases the risk of developing dementia which can make it harder to manage chronic health conditions. Depression is treatable yet, older adults do not have access to appropriate or adequate care due to stigma, poverty and unequal treatment due to race and other inequities.

Centralina Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is responding to this prevalent issue through a partnership with the University of North Carolina Asheville, who observed the need for mental health resources for older adults in the North Carolina area and subsequently received a three-year grant under the Administration on Community Living. PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives) is a community- and evidence-based pilot program designed to reduce depression in physically impaired and socially isolated people. PEARLS is based on three fundamental principles: 1) what the participant is experiencing includes symptoms due to depression, 2) the close link between depression and unsolved problems, and 3) increased participation in social, physical and other activities will decrease depressive symptoms.

Centralina will connect and serve 205 individuals over the course of three years through PEARLS. This program is designed to help older adults develop the skills they need to maintain their health, happiness and independence. Centralina will provide individual support through a trained coach for four to five months with six to eight sessions that will take place in the client’s home, community setting or virtually. The PEARLS coach will help the individual recognize the symptoms of depression, use a seven-step approach to identify and solve problems and plan social/physical activities that often improve the mood of people living with depression. Centralina AAA Director Linda Miller shares, “We understand that depression and isolation are growing issues among older adults, and we are happy to offer PEARLS in our region to better support adults living with depression and isolation.”

For more information about PEARLS, contact Aging Specialist Kamiya Williams at 704-688-7036 or