Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS)

PEARLS particpant story - DonnaThe Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS) is a national evidence-based program for late-life depression. The program brings high quality mental health care into community-based settings that reach older adults who might not otherwise have access to mental health services.

“All these skills helped me realize I can have a life I enjoy. Before PEARLS, I did not see beyond a day.” – PEARLS participant

PEARLS Overview

A bit about what PEARLS is and what is has to offer. 

  • Empower older adults by teaching them skills necessary to take action and make lasting life changes so they can lead more active and rewarding lives. 
  • Offer a client-driven, team-based approach, involving a PEARLS coach, clinical supervisor, and health provider. 
  • Allow collaboration with older adults in their homes or other accessible community settings over six to eight PEARLS sessions that focus brief behavioral techniques. 
  • Improve quality of life, as well as reduce depressive symptoms. 
  • Provide access in the community through social service or other trusted community-based organizations.
  • Support a variety of older adults, including those who have chronic illness such as epilepsy. 

Program History

How It Started

PEARLS began in the late 1990s when the director of Aging and Disability Services, the area agency on aging for Seattle and King County, approached the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center (UW HPRC) for a way to serve older adults with depression, including those served by the agency’s home- and community-based services (HCBS) program and/or those who might not have a clinical diagnosis of depress. Depression is high among older adult who are homebound; when we analyzed data from 16,032 elders receiving HCBS in Washington state in 2005, two-thirds met criteria for clinical depression. Older adults do not need a depression diagnosis to participate in PEARLS. In fact, we know depression can appear as sadness, frustration, loneliness, or loss of interest in activities someone once loved.

The academic-community partnership between the university and local aging service providers resulted in PEARLS as a way to support older adults and increase access to mental health services.

Today, PEARLS continues to be shared by the UW Health Promotion Research Center in close partnership with local, state, and national organizations working to improve the health and well-being of older adults.