Reclaiming joy: pilot evaluation of a mental health peer support program for older adults who receive Medicaid

Gerontologist. 2013 Apr;53(2):345-52. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns120. Epub 2012 Aug 30.


Purpose: Stigma and lack of access to providers create barriers to mental health treatment for older adults living in the community. In order to address these barriers, we developed and evaluated a peer support intervention for older adults receiving Medicaid services.

Design and methods: Reclaiming Joy is a mental health intervention that pairs an older adult volunteer with a participant (older adult who receives peer support). Volunteers receive training on the strengths-based approach, mental health and aging, goal setting and attainment, community resources, and safety. Participant-volunteer pairs meet once a week for 10 weeks. Participants establish and work toward goals (e.g., better self-care, social engagement) that they feel would improve their mental health and well-being. Aging services agencies provide a part time person to manage the program, match volunteers and participants, and provide ongoing support. Outcomes evaluation for this pilot study included pre/postintervention assessments of participants.

Results: Thirty-two participants completed the intervention. Pre/postassessment group means showed statistically significant improvement for depression but not for symptoms of anxiety. Quality-of-life indicators for health and functioning also improved for participants with symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

Implications: The Reclaiming Joy peer support intervention has potential for reducing depression and increasing quality of life in low-income older adults who have physical health conditions. It is feasible to administer and sustain the intervention through collaborative efforts with minimal program resources and a small amount of technical assistance.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Community Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Peer Group*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Care
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States