UofL Optimal Aging Clinic offers mental health and problem-solving assistance for older adults

    UofL Trager Institute
    UofL Trager Institute

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A free program for adults age 60 and over living in Louisville and surrounding Kentucky counties can help them with solving life problems that may be making them feel down or discouraged.

    A down or sad mood can drastically affect older adults’ mental health and can progress into symptoms of depression. Recent research by the University of Louisville Trager Institute shows that 16-19% of older adults in the Louisville metropolitan area exhibit symptoms of depression and 10-14% of them report frequent mental distress.

    The Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic at the Trager Institute has introduced a mental health assistance service, Program for Encouraging Active and Rewarding Lives (PEARLS), that can help older adults who are experiencing a down or sad mood and would like assistance in addressing life challenges that contribute to these negative feelings.

    PEARLS can help an older adult who is experiencing a lack of enjoyment in once-pleasurable activities: feeling down, sad or hopeless or has changes in sleep, appetite or concentration. Although these concerns can feel overwhelming, research has proven that participating in PEARLS can alleviate them.

    PEARLS is an evidence-based program centered on the idea that depression and related negative emotions can be linked to unsolved problems in people’s lives. PEARLS helps participants enhance their problem-solving skills to reduce obstacles that keep them from living life optimally. With their PEARLS counselor, participants learn a seven-step process to walk through their problems and make a plan for action. PEARLS also helps clients identify and engage in safe social, physical and enjoyable activities to continue improving their mood. Created by the University of Washington, PEARLS is client-driven, focusing on what the client wants to accomplish for themselves.

    PEARLS is available by appointment via telehealth or in person at the Optimal Aging Clinic. Participants living in Jefferson, Oldham, Trimble, Shelby, Spencer, Henry and Bullitt Counties in Kentucky may receive up to eight sessions at no charge and may participate even without a current diagnosis of depression. The sessions are supported by a grant from the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency.

    Since its launch at the Optimal Aging Clinic in February, PEARLS has improved the lives of people in multiple Kentucky counties. Of surveyed PEARLS clients, 78% reported they have found the program helpful.

    “Since we started seeing patients in our PEARLS program, it has been inspirational to see the amount of progress people have made over just a few months,” said Alison Hanlein, C.S.W., PEARLS program coordinator at the Optimal Aging Clinic. “It is deeply rewarding to see our patients leading happier and healthier lives thanks to this program. There often is a social stigma to reaching out for help with issues like this, but working through these thoughts and feelings can have transformative power.”

    In addition to PEARLS, the Optimal Aging Clinic at the UofL Trager Institute offers mental health treatment options including individual counseling, marriage and couples counseling and a mindfulness meditation series, so clients can choose the type of assistance that is best for them.

    For more information about the PEARLS program or to make a referral, contact Hanlein at 502-588-4340, opt. 2, or alison.hanlein@louisville.edu.


    Betty Coffman
    Betty Coffman is a Communications Coordinator focused on research and innovation at UofL. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing.