Regular Research Article|Articles in Press

Increasing the Repertoire for Depression Care: Methods and Challenges of a Randomized Controlled Trial of Peer Support for Vulnerable Older Adults

Published:February 02, 2023DOI:


      • What is the primary question addressed by this study?
        We describe the methods and challenges encountered during the implementation of a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a peer support depression care intervention for low-income White and older adults of color during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • What is the main finding of this study?
        Challenges to participant recruitment have included barriers related to stigma, distrust as well as unfamiliarity with research. Peer support enjoys strong policy support in Maryland that facilitated recruitment and retention was addressed by providing supervision and support to Peer Mentors in their role.
      • What is the meaning of the finding?
        This study will provide knowledge regarding the effectiveness, mechanism and processes of delivering an informal psychosocial intervention such as peer support to older adults.



      Low-income White and older adults of color face barriers to depression care. Our purpose is to describe the methods and challenges encountered during the implementation of a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a peer support depression care intervention for low-income White and older adults of color during the COVID-19 pandemic.


      Peer Enhanced Depression Care (Peers) is an 8-week community-based intervention that uses peer mentors who are trained and supervised to provide social support and self-care skills to depressed older adults. The effectiveness of the intervention in reducing depression will be evaluated by following a sample of older adults recruited in the community over a 12-month period. Target enrollment is 160 older adults. We hypothesize that participants randomized to the Peer Enhanced Depression Care intervention will experience greater decrease in depressive symptoms compared to participants randomized to the social interaction control. We provide lessons learned regarding the recruitment of BIPOC and White low-income older adults and peer mentors during the COVID-19 pandemic.


      Recruitment challenges occurred in primary care clinics that were unable to accommodate recruitment efforts during the pandemic. This led to focused outreach to community-based organizations serving older adults. Challenges to participant recruitment have included barriers related to stigma, distrust, as well as unfamiliarity with research. Peer mentor recruitment was facilitated by existing government-supported resources.


      This study will provide knowledge regarding the effectiveness, mechanism, and processes of delivering an informal psychosocial intervention such as peer support to a vulnerable older adult population.

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