Health Promotion Research Center

Because PEARLS can be tailored to individual community needs, it is a powerful tool for making depression care accessible to underserved communities. The program recognizes that different communities celebrate their elders in different ways and is designed to build on those strengths.

Success Stories: Hear from PEARLS Participants & Coaches

Read success stories from PEARLS participants and their PEARLS coaches in their own words below.

Thank you to the coaches and people who shared their PEARLS stories!

David's* Story

I am a 64-year-old, low-income senior with a Veteran’s disability award. Pain, lack of things to do and the fact that I have no money left after paying my bills cause me to be in a constant state of depression since I moved here. I’d been lying in bed watching TV for months, only getting up to fix something to eat or check my mail. In January, I saw a flyer in the laundry room that outlined PEARLS. It sounded like it might help me. I called and set up an appointment with a lady named Evelyn, who came to my house to set up a program specifically for me.

Evelyn immediately helped me outline my problems and set up a positive plan to work toward getting me active again. During our first session, she introduced me to a form called the “PEARLS Worksheet.” This form allows you to take a particular problem each week and outline goals and possible solutions, showing the advantages and disadvantages to each action. Then you choose a solution to work on and five attempts to achieving the solution. It also allows you to plan something pleasant, physical, and social to do for the week.

The first week we outlined a plan to quit smoking. I was shocked at the progress I made reducing my smoking from seven packs a week to three. This decreased my expenses from $150 per month to about $57. Some of my financial solutions were met as well. I found myself looking forward to our weekly meetings and was getting out of the house about four days per week doing something toward a positive solution to problems that were keeping me depressed. I started riding my bike with a friend at least once per week and going to coffee shops with friends.

I was also introduced to resources I did not know about. Elder Law Center helped me with tenant landlord problems. I found a Social Security Disability Insurance attorney to help with an appeal. I found free veterinary care for my cat. I got help repairing an expensive transmission job on my car. Worked out a plan to help reduce pain through an affordable chiropractor and other treatments I was not doing. Since our sessions have been reduced to once per month, I’ve been falling into some old patterns, but at least I have found tools to help me make life more meaningful. I wish this program was able to afford more weekly session, for a longer period of time.

I highly recommend [PEARLS] for other elderly people who suffer from depression. I feel like after about three months, I am at least 50% better off than before. Thank you for your help.

Christine's Story

During her initial session, Christine’s depression was due to financial problems, lack of social and physical activity, and family dynamics. As the sessions took place she had been encouraged to develop solutions for these challenges, which were causing her depression and stress.

Her solution to her financial stress was developing a budget where she uses her money for emergency purposes only. She had also been encouraged to do light exercises; the client uses a stationary bicycle at least once a day for 10 minutes and she also goes on walks with her son in the morning and in the afternoons. Christina also increased her social activities by engaging in more family gatherings.

The main problem bothering Christina was the complex relationship her son had with his father. During one of the session Christina’s son approached me and asked for help. He mentioned that he felt depressed and occasionally would think of hurting himself. I talked to him and asked if he currently has a plan of how he is going to hurt himself, but he did not. Her son was referred to Mental Health access team, where he received counseling. Within the third session, the client mentioned the relationship between her son and husband was better. She was very happy about that. Due to their improved relationship, she is no longer stressed.

During our sessions, the client and I have built a rapport that has aided her success in the program. She now feels confident and uplifted to live a happy and healthy life.

Donna's Story

Donna, 65, was feeling herself going into a direction of minor depression because of health complications. However, somewhere within herself, she knew that through her situations there is always hope. As she was referred to PEARLS, she made the decision to aim for it.

In 2014, Donna’s year started off with many struggles in her health. Before this she was very active and desperate to get better emotionally and physically.

With her being involved in PEARLS, she was able to learn problem solving techniques. Her goal was to become active in physical and pleasant activities in her home because her mobility was limited. Donna also worked on increasing her walking that will help her lungs and legs to become stronger no matter how difficult her breathing became. She knew and learned the more she kept it repetitive that eventually both her lungs and strength would increase, and it did.

Although Donna still deals with mobility limitations, she has learned to become positive and to remain engaged as much as possible. She has realized that problem-solving techniques, daily activation, and encouragement really help reduce depression.

Donna knows she is going to be more than okay. She reminds herself on a daily basis to uplift herself by engaging in pleasant activities, especially, when she starts to feel any unpleasant feelings. She is now able to recognize and manage her feelings more on a positive level verse a negative one.

Overall, she believes this program has helped her in many ways.


  • Described her health as poor.
  • Some social activities.
  • Rarely visits people or volunteers.
  • No physical activities.
  • Some pleasant activities.
  • Depression symptoms.


  • Described her health as very good.
  • Quite social:
    • Communicating socially with visits or phone calls 7x a week
    • Outdoor outings, attending church, or going out to dinner 2-3x a week
    • Volunteer work at her church kitchen 1x a week
  • More active:
    • Walks short distances 2-4x a week
    • Light leg and arm stretches
  • More pleasant activities:
    • Crocheting, reading, arts and crafts 4-5x a week
    • Volunteering 4-5x a week
  • No depression

Richard's* Story

Over several months of problem solving with encouragement, Richard* slowly overcame many obstacles. The changes were dramatic. His progress continued with the help of a social worker in his senior residential building. Below is his journey with a snapshot of “then” and “now.”


Richard was a 61-year-old, African-American man living in a single-room hotel room with a small bathroom, no refrigerator, no microwave, no access to outgoing phone calls, no direct sunlight, no social services or security in the building. He received home-delivered meals and used a mini cooler with ice to store beverages and leftovers.

He had no primary care physician and believed he did not need routine doctor visits. He had depressive symptoms and passive suicidal ideation. He also had regular headaches, possibly from using prescription glasses that are 10 years old.

His daughter called him once a week from Indiana. While he attended continuing education classes four times a week, he considered himself socially isolated because of his difficulty with language and self-expression as a result of a stroke.

NOW: 8 months later

Richard turned 62 years old and began living independently in a senior residential building studio with a bathroom that had ample space and safety features such as grab bars, shower seat, and walk-in shower. The studio has a full-size refrigerator, microwave, sink, window with direct sunlight, telephone with access to outgoing calls, and access to social services and security in the building. His daughter now calls three to four times a week, and he can also call her at any time.

He has a primary care doctor now and believes this is good “because God and my daughter want me to be taken care of.” He also wants to be well enough to see his daughter again, who is thinking about coming to visit from out of state.

He does not have depressive symptoms or suicidal ideation. He did get a free optometry exam, where he learned he is blind in one eye. He was also able to purchase new prescription glasses, and no longer get headaches.

He still attends continuing education classes four times a week. While he still has difficulty verbalizing his feelings at times, he expressed being happy overall and believe his new living conditions are heaven sent.

He doesn’t feel as socially isolated and receives support from residents and staff. “These people are awfully nice here,” he said.

And he is proud to be able to take care of himself now, including heating or cooking food, buying and storing fresh food and beverages, as well as accessing hot meals in the dining hall downstairs.

When Richard looks at his “then” and “now,” he says he did not know how much I was missing.

“I like my now way, WAY better… because it includes my daughter,” he said.

Sam's* Story

I was skeptical when I started to participate in PEARLS. My wife asked me to try it. I did this to appease her and did not expect any results. Since I agreed to give the program a try, I figured I may as well give it the effort necessary.

I met Tiffany, and she seemed pleasant. The first thing we did was begin our session with a group of questions regarding my well-being and answer with a grade from “Not at All” to “Several Days.”

We then discussed goals and results of these goals. In order to achieve these objectives, Tiffany had me list pros and cons of each goal. Usually, these sessions would focus on one particular goal.

I was getting over surgery and had not been able to walk for over a year. My first goal was getting into a swimming pool. With the physical help of my son, I did it.

Tiffany was outstanding, a real pro. I found myself wanting to make progress to please her in the beginning. As the weeks past, I found myself looking forward to our sessions. The depression I had for so long slowly regressed. My strength began to return, and as I graded each session, my chart showed that I was becoming less negative.

In order to put my situation in perspective, I need to add that about five weeks before starting the sessions with Tiffany, I was told by my doctors that I most likely would never walk again. They were wrong. I became very stubborn about walking and kept trying. At the end of our eight meetings, I was finally walking some. I need a cane, but that’s okay.

I really believe Tiffany Campbell helped me achieve that goal. She never judged me nor patronized me. She was very respectful and actually made a connection with me.

In conclusion, am I still skeptical? Yes, for that is my nature.

Were my sessions helpful? Absolutely!

So regardless of my nature, the results were positive.

Paul's Story

Watch Paul’s video and hear his story about participating in PEARLS.

Lori's Story

Watch Lori’s video and hear her story about participating in PEARLS.

* Names changed for privacy.

Success Stories: In the News

Read about PEARLS — and its success — in national outlets, local media, and partnering organizations.

Seniors can be taught to fight depression, study shows
Seattle Times

PEARLS of Hope: How a New, Targeted Treatment Program Helped a Senior Move from Depression to Dating
Huffington Post

PEARLS for Veterans Supports Spouses Who Are Caregivers
Aging & Disability Services (King County, Washington)

Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives Helps Kent Veteran Succeed at Problem-Solving
Aging & Disability Services (King County, Washington)

A Strong Woman — A Resilient Vet
Aging & Disability Services (King County, Washington)

If your organization publishes or knows of a PEARLS success story in the news, let us know.