September 24, 2020
Older veterans reported increased awareness of positive health behaviors that support brain health and improved mood after taking part in a 6-week psychoeducation and motivational group, according to a study published in the journal Federal Practitioner.
Mental health providers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division, created the Health Aging Project-Brain (HAP-B, pronounced “happy”) intervention to promote healthy brain aging in veterans age 50 and older. The intervention promotes education, personalized goal setting, and community support in areas known to support cognitive functioning: physical activity, sleep, cognitive stimulation, and social engagement.
“Education and skills training in a group setting provides a supportive, cost-effective approach for increasing overall health in aging adults,” researchers wrote. “Yet older adults are statistically less likely to engage in these behaviors on a regular basis.”
The study included 31 veterans, average age 71, who participated in six weekly 90-minute HAP-B classes. Participants, who were predominately male and white, attended an average five of the six sessions.
Feedback showed high satisfaction as well as increased awareness of health behaviors among participants. Compared with baseline, self-report measures after six sessions showed a significant decline in depressive symptoms along with increases in satisfaction with life and self-efficacy.
“Participants indicated that they enjoyed the group, learned new skills (per participant feedback and facilitator observation), and experienced improvements in mood, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction,” researchers wrote. “Given the participants’ positive response to the group and its content, as well as continued referrals by healthcare providers to this group and low difficulty with ongoing recruitment, this program was deemed both feasible and acceptable in our veteran healthcare setting.”
Although the intervention was designed for older veterans, researchers noted the HAP-B concepts can be used with older adults in a range of health care settings.
Verstaen A, Rau HK, Trittschuh EH. Healthy Aging Project-Brain: A Psychoeducational and Motivational Group for Older Veterans. Fed Pract. 2020 Jul;37(7):309-315. PMID: 32908334; PMCID: PMC7473715.