Research projects

beyond maturityblues – COTA Peer Education Pilot Program

Principal Researchers

Council on the Ageing (COTA) South Australia


beyondblue in partnership with Council on the Ageing (COTA) South Australia



Project completion year

2006 (Pilot Program completed)

Project brief

Research has shown that older people are less likely to know about depression, less likely to consider it an illness or disability and are less likely to seek treatment than other age groups. We also know that as our population ages depression in older people is a growing problem and that accurate diagnosis is difficult due to a number of complicating factors including the belief that depression is a normal part of ageing. Research has also shown that peer education is valued among the older age groups.

The pilot project aimed to reach people aged 50 years and over in metropolitan and regional areas of South Australia, utilising older volunteers as peer educators. The pilot program was developed following the principles of COTA SA peer education projects and implemented followed the processes and format for existing COTA SA peer education programs.  Once trained, the Peer Educators delivered information sessions to other older people about depression within established community networks.

A comprehensive two day training program was developed around 4 key beyondblue messages. The program also utilised the expertise, resources and support provided by beyondblue.

The four key messages of the beyond maturityblues – depression and older people program were

  • Depression is not a normal part of ageing
  • Depression is a health problem not a weakness
  • Depression is a treatable illness
  • Information and support is available.

A pre and post training questionnaire based on the beyondblue National Depression Monitor was developed to measure the results of the community sessions based on the following aims:

Older people will:

  • have an increased awareness and understanding of depression in the older person, strategies to minimize or reduce risk and knowledge of service and supports in the community that may assist in reducing that risk
  • become aware of the effects of stigma and given factual information to help dispel this stigma
  • obtain an increase in the empowerment of older people to discuss issues related to their health with health professionals.


The initial pilot period went extremely well with demand outpacing the project target leading to the extension of the pilot program from 6 months to 12 months.

17 Peer Educators completed training. An evaluation form at the completion of their training gave an overall rating of their training ranging from 9.6 from 10.

Peer Educators delivered 171 community sessions to 3,500 recipients across South Australia over a 10 month period.

2049 pre and 1803 post questionnaires were collected. The results show that this pilot program was successful in achieving the goals of increasing knowledge, decreasing stigma and increasing help seeking behaviour by delivering key messages to a targeted age group.

  • The percentage of participants correctly identifying the approximate prevalence of depression (1 in 5) rose from 28.4% pre training to 70.7% following training.
  • The proportion of respondents disagreeing with stigmatised attitudes related to depression generally increased following training, whilst the proportion of respondents agreeing with stigmatised attitudes generally decreased.
  • The most common response offered by participants when asked where they would go for help if they, a family member or friend were depressed was to a GP or family doctor, both pre and post training. Post training there was a reduction in the number of people who responded that they would not know where to seek help.

12,318 pieces of beyondblue information and resources were distributed during the pilot program.

Implications for policy and practice

The outcomes of this pilot demonstrated the need for education and training for older people. Other areas and organisations need to be sourced to extend the reach of this type of information session and/or education.

Next steps

This program has been further funded by beyondblue , and was rolled out nationally through all State and Territory COTAs in 2007.

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