Skip to main content

Make a difference: helping older people cope with depression

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Communities, Guidance, Mental health, Workforce
Care colleague in nursing home supporting residents
"[We] developed a series of short, animated videos aimed at people with little prior knowledge of [how to support older people with depression]."

Bite size learning - big life changes

Supporting and helping to improve the health of older adults in our care is paramount. Depression is a common condition, one which can have a real impact on older adults’ wellbeing. And while it is a problem all year round, as we approach the festive season, it does no harm to renew our vigilance and support of those who may feel particularly lonely or isolated at this time.

The NHS Older Adult’s Mental Health Team commissioned EL Learning Design to develop new e-learning resources to help those caring for older adults to recognise the symptoms and to support conversations they may initially feel quite daunting.

The brief was to design a series of accessible bite-sized resources, which could be completed in any order and would appeal to a wide range of learners, whatever their starting point. The audience was anyone providing care and support to older people, including those working in the community, in care settings, voluntary services, and the NHS.

We wanted to design something different from the usual e-learning and were delighted to have the opportunity to be innovative and creative with this project. The design approach was to develop a series of short, animated videos aimed at people with little prior knowledge of the subject. These would be visually appealing and easy-to-understand, bringing complex concepts to life.

Each one would focus on a discreet topic that could be watched in isolation or as part of the series. The topics in the videos would be explored in greater depth in a podcast series, offering a more personal touch, featuring interviews with both professionals and older individuals sharing their journeys. The learning from the videos and podcasts would be brought together in some interactive case studies providing a hands-on learning experience, allowing users to apply their knowledge in realistic scenarios.

Man in chair looking worried and sad.
"The most important experts in this project were older people themselves. We engaged with the NHS England’s Older People’s Sounding Board through interviews and discussions." [Image created by]

Compassion and connection

Effective mental health support fostering understanding and empathy is crucial, especially when it comes to addressing the unique challenges faced by older adults. Recognising this need, we took a collaborative approach to developing the learning resources and brought together a diverse group of experts, including clinical psychologists, older age psychiatrists, GPs, mental health nurses, social prescribers, pharmacists, care providers and representatives from third-sector organisations to co-create the resources.

The most important experts in this project were older people themselves. We engaged with the NHS England’s Older People’s Sounding Board through interviews and discussions.

The collaborative process began with in-depth consultations with experts to gain a deep understanding of the complexities of mental health in older adults and provide the foundation for accurate and evidence-based content. The conversations with older adults gave valuable perspectives on lived experiences, challenges, and coping mechanisms, enriching the content and ensuring that the resources were sensitive to the diverse backgrounds and contexts of older adults.

A pivotal moment involved visiting a care home to interact with residents and staff. This provided invaluable insights into the daily lives of older individuals dealing with depression. The stories shared by residents and the observations made by staff members added a layer of authenticity that is often missing in traditional learning resources.

We were privileged to have the opportunity to create these resources that, we hope, will truly make a difference. Ultimately, this co-creation demonstrates the power of collaboration in addressing mental health challenges in older adults. By combining the expertise of clinical professionals with the rich experiences of older individuals, the resources not only educate but also foster a sense of empathy and compassion, paving the way for more informed and supportive care.

Find out more

  • The full set of learning resources can be accessed by logging into the NHS Learning Hub.
  • The videos and podcasts can be accessed from YouTube and Spotify.

Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by Mark Dimmock posted on

    One of the biggest causes of mental health illness in older people is untreated and unaided hearing loss.
    Our charity, East Sussex Hearing, fights everyday to improve the lives and raise awareness of hearing disability.
    The work we do has a huge impact in making a positive change to the lives of individuals. Breaking them free from the isolation that hearing loss imposes on them and impacts hugely both their mental and physical health.
    Our small contract to help provide core services from the NHS has been cut by 6.8% in real terms. Resulting in an increase for the current financial year of a £30 per week real terms increase to help support the 120,000 residents of the county who suffering a hearing impairment.
    The DOH really needs to look at local good practice and encourage the ICB's to work with us to support our preventative work with regard to mental health provision.