Although the majority of older adults are able to weather life's stressors adequately and maintain sound mental health, about 20% of people age 60 or older experience mental disorders that are not normal to aging. Yet seniors "underutilize mental health services more than any other age group," stated Christopher Miller of the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).
Miller manages the Geriatric Depression Education, Screening and Referral Initiative, which won an American Society on Aging 2008 Healthcare and Aging Award, presented by ASA's Healthcare and Aging Network in collaboration "with Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative.
Working through senior centers, the New York City initiative educates older adults about depression, screens their risk for clinical depression and refers atrisk elders for further evaluation and treatment. In addition, it provides inhome screening and referral to homebound clients.
Begun in 2005, the initiative focuses on New York City's minority and highpoverty communities, as well as on homebound clients registered with case management agencies. Through culturally and linguistic-appropriate activities, the initiative is designed to address misconceptions, stigma, lack of knowledge and attitudinal barriers to depression intervention and treatment, Miller explained.
The project trains senior center staff to increase their understanding of clini- cal depression and enlists their aid in urging center participants who appear to be at risk for depression to participate in project activities. …