Objectives: This study assesses the effects of an autobiographical memory intervention on the prevention and reduction of depressive symptoms in older persons in residential care. Trained volunteers delivered the intervention. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was carried out with depressive symptoms as the primary outcome. The experimental condition received the intervention Precious Memories one-on-one, whereas the control condition had individual unstructured contacts with a volunteer. Participants were 86 older persons living in residential care. There were three measurements: pre-intervention, post-intervention (2 months after the first measurement), and follow-up (8 months after the first measurement). Besides depressive symptoms, the retrieval of specific positive memories was measured as a process variable. Anxiety, loneliness, well-being, and mastery were assessed as secondary outcomes. Results: Depressive symptoms improved equally in the intervention and the control condition at post-measurement. Participants with clinically relevant depressive symptoms also maintained the effects at follow-up in both conditions. The retrieval of specific positive memories improved more in the autobiographical memory intervention, although this was not maintained at follow-up. Anxiety and loneliness improved equally well in both conditions, but no effects were found for well-being or mastery. Conclusion: It is concluded that volunteers can deliver the intervention and contribute to the mental health of this highly vulnerable group of older adults.
- institutional care
- reminiscence therapy