The Program

Addressing Depression in Older Adults

Healthy IDEAS is designed to detect and manage depressive symptoms among at-risk older adults and their caregivers through existing community-based case management services. Agencies providing case management services to older adults embed the Healthy IDEAS core components into their delivery of services. The program is delivered by non-mental health professionals, such as case managers, social workers, and care coordinators, who employ a short-term, focused intervention to support better management of depressive symptoms and increased engagement in meaningful activities. Healthy IDEAS engages local mental health experts (coaches) to provide back-up and support for staff.

Program Components

Step 1: Screen and assess clients for depressive symptoms.

Step 2: Educate clients about treatment options and self-management.

Step 3: Refer and link clients to primary/mental health care.

Step 4: Engage clients in Behavioral Activation, an approach to depression management that helps clients combat the inactivity commonly associated with depression.

Step 5: Reassess client progress.


The U.S. Administration for Community Living has designated Healthy IDEAS as an evidence-based program and recommends it for nationwide replication.

Healthy IDEAS is a service delivery model that extends the reach of current community-based aging services by integrating depression awareness and self-management interventions into existing case-management programs. As one of the Administration on Community Living’s “Evidence-based Prevention Programs for Older Adults”, Healthy IDEAS uses evidence-based practices to identify and address depression symptoms in those most at risk of being unrecognized and undertreated for depression.


Healthy IDEAS is a national model with measurable results and demonstrated benefits for older adults, service providers, and community mental/behavioral health practitioners. The pilot study and large-scale demonstration of Healthy IDEAS were conducted in Houston, Texas, as part of a community-academic partnership managed by Care for Elders in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine.

A full-scale evaluation of the Healthy IDEAS program model was conducted and published.

For Older Adults:

  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Decreased physical pain
  • Better ability to recognize and self-treat symptoms
  • Improved well-being through achievement of personal goals

For Service Providers:

  • Expanded capacity to address depression
  • Better communication and stronger partnerships with mental health providers
  • Opportunity to deliver a proven, successful program that addresses critical client needs
  • Improved staff knowledge and confidence in helping clients

For Community Mental/Behavioral Health Partners:

  • Increased opportunity to work with diverse populations of older adults
  • Strengthened connections to community agencies
  • Greater opportunity to reach and help underserved older adults