Today, the second-ever Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day, Ethos recognizes the nearly one in five older Americans that have one or more mental health/substance use conditions (according to a 2012 Institute of Medicine study).
The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that by 2030 there will be nearly 75 million Americans over age 65.  As the aging population grows, so does the number of older adults experiencing mental illness – and so does the need for programs tailored to meet their unique needs.

Healthy IDEAS (Identifying Depression, Empowering Ideas for Seniors) at Ethos is a free program for people 55 and over living in the city of Boston who feel down, sad, or hopeless. Through this program, elders receive visits from graduate-level student interns once per week for a three to six month period. These interns facilitate conversations around the elder’s depressed mood and together, the pair develops a plan to implement positive change in the elder’s life.

At 63 years old Catherine found herself homebound, and was referred to the Healthy IDEAS (HI) program by her social worker from VNA Care who noticed Catherine expressing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.  Catherine also expressed feeling isolated, disconnected and out of control due to physical limitations caused by recent and severe back problems. 

Catherine was matched with HI intern Jeanne Cooke from the Boston College School of Social Work and together they uncovered that Catherine was experiencing moderate levels of depression.  Jeanne helped Catherine to set a goal of scheduling, attending, reviewing, and managing all of her medical appointments to help her gain a sense of control over her own body and health.  Jeanne also helped Catherine set a second goal of utilizing mindfulness techniques to help her mitigate frustration that she experienced due to her new found physical limitations.

After six months in the HI program, Catherine was attending all of her medical appointments and reported having regained a sense of control over her body and her health.  Catherine was also regularly utilizing mindfulness techniques which helped her to manage her frustration.  Catherine felt empowered to continue living her life despite her physical limitations.  At the end of the HI intervention Jeanne helped connect Catherine to a doctor finder service to help her identify and begin working with a psychiatrist. 

Catherine feels as though her time with Jeanne helped her to increase her self-awareness and, “reconnect” with herself, gain a sense of control, and manage some of the issues that she found to be overwhelming prior to the intervention. 

For more information on the Healthy IDEAS Program, or to make a referral, please contact Claribette Del Rosario, Mental Health Services Program Manager, at or 617-522-6700 ext. 344.